Paul Holmes 19 Apr 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Preparing AsiaInfo for its NASDAQ listing was a PR/IR effort of international proportions. The logistics involved in obtaining a successful NASDAQ listing in the U.S. by a company known only in China were daunting. A successful IPO depended on unprecedented teamwork, action and precision from Beijing and Hong Kong, to Silicon Valley and New York. Ogilvy PR successfully educated AsiaInfo about the intricacies of the US market and introduced the US market to one of China's Internet pioneers. Ogilvy PR, Beijing's and Alexander Ogilvy PR’s coordination of this international effort contributed to doubling AsiaInfo's offering amount to $140 million and producing a 362% increase during the first day of trading, one of the year's strongest IPOs.
In late 1999, China's leading Internet companies began to receive serious attention from the international investment community. A growing Internet base in China and a flourishing tech market in the U.S. made the first ever listing of a Mainland Chinese Internet company a very appealing prospect. However, investors' enthusiasm would be held at bay by uncertainty, confusion and a general lack of knowledge of China's Internet market. Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide was brought in to position the Beijing based Internet infrastructure provider, AsiaInfo, for a successful NASDAQ listing. The logistics involved in obtaining a successful listing in the U.S. by a company known only in China were daunting. A successful IPO would depend on unprecedented teamwork, action and precision from Beijing and Hong Kong, to Silicon Valley and New York with a budget of $250,000.
The primary goal of Ogilvy PR was to obtain a strong stock performance at listing for AsiaInfo. Working towards this goal, Ogilvy PR created a comprehensive range of objectives including corporate internal IPO education, brand building, strategic positioning, media relations, investor relations and crisis management. These objectives were:
Educate AsiaInfo’s management about the complicated details of the IPO process and the responsibility of being a public company
Construct the AsiaInfo corporate brand and identity virtually from scratch within three months and ensure recognition and support from various target audiences including institutional investors, industry analysts and key international media
Develop marketing and public relations material that explains the AsiaInfo message - AsiaInfo is the leading provider of Internet infrastructure solutions and software in China
Support AsiaInfo in operations as a public company post-IPO through possible market downturns by redirecting focus away from popular stereotypes and towards the company's strong fundamentals
Generate interest and understanding for AsiaInfo’s products and services in order to create a positive public reputation and strong media ties
Clearly explain to investors and industry analysts AsiaInfo’s business model and its competitive advantages, including first-mover positioning, local market experience and strong financial track record
Create public awareness for AsiaInfo’s corporate identity and management to enhance standing with potential partners
The AsiaInfo IPO campaign targeted sophisticated and diverse audiences on a global scale:
- International and domestic institutional investors unaware of AsiaInfo’s upcoming IPO and lacking knowledge of Asian business operations
- Financial media uninformed about China's Internet companies but able to distribute the AsiaInfo brand and positive messages about the company's prospects for success
- Local and foreign press unacquainted with the AsiaInfo brand, products and services
- Private investors who play an influential role in overall NASDAQ market performance despite their lack of access to important information regarding AsiaInfo’s past performance
- Potential partners who did not know of AsiaInfo or were uncertain of the possibility of future business ventures
- Industry analysts who could draw the attention of important audiences to AsiaInfo’s unique business operation in China
- Financial analysts with the ability to warrant and increase investment confidence in AsiaInfo during IPO and post-IPO periods
To effectively position AsiaInfo for its IPO, Ogivly PR had to first determine the obstacles that would hinder the success of the IPO and establish plans for addressing those obstacles. Further, Ogilvy PR needed to determine which analysts and financial journalists would most influence the future of the IPO. The obstacles confronting Ogilvy PR included:
- The specificity of quiet period guidelines and how they would effect media relations and public outreach for a company that had operated solely in China
- AsiaInfo’s lack of English language external distribution materials
- AsiaInfo’s lack of an internal management structure capable of operating smoothly in accordance with complicated IPO procedures and responsibilities
AsiaInfo’s insufficient public experience with various audience groups and the demands of the Street.
In achieving the above objectives, Ogilvy PR acted as both AsiaInfo’s internal PR consultant and its only representative outside of China. Ogilvy PR was responsible for developing and executing a full force regional and global public relations campaign. To create the greatest international impact for the IPO, Ogilvy PR’s Beijing and Silicon Valley offices served as a link to US financial and media groups. Further responsibilities included internal management infrastructure building, external marketing and PR strategies.
Ogilvy PR designed an integrated regional and international marketing campaign, combining public relations, interactive development and advertising to help AsiaInfo achieve a successful IPO. The IPO process was separated into three distinct stages: pre-IPO, IPO, and post-IPO.
- Educated the entire executive management team with personalized on-site programs on the complexities of becoming a US listed public company
- Implemented models of internal management infrastructure
- Produced English language materials including the web site, one on one meeting briefs and industry influencer presentations
- Positioned AsiaInfo’s brand image through media and investor relations
- Designed a consistent AsiaInfo product and services campaign by working actively with Ogilvy interactive and advertising teams, generating a uniform understanding of AsiaInfo’s initiatives
- Executed full impact IPO launch activities including the company's first press release, outreach to the financial press, launch of the investor relations web site and on-site support on the NASDAQ floor. At AsiaInfo headquarters, Ogilvy PR provided inquiry support by fielding incoming calls
- Began a brand building campaign to create a deeper understanding of AsiaInfo as a company beyond the IPO
- Developed relationships with key financial and business media in San Francisco, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong
- Evaluated AsiaInfo’s institutional ownership and targeted appropriated funds and fund managers for ownership
- Began relationship building with sell-side analysts outside of the underwriting team to build awareness and credibility. Two of these analysts have initiated coverage with a "buy" recommendation
- Positioned AsiaInfo as a solid Internet investment during the NASDAQ market correction. Dow Jones calls AsiaInfo a "good long term China Net play"
- Initiated full industry and investment conference visibility plan throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe
EVALUATION/MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS
Ogilvy PR not only met but exceeded its original objectives:
Ogilvy PR’s ambitious PR and IR campaign generated outstanding financial attention doubling the offering amount to $140 million and producing a 362% increase during the first day of trading, one of the year's strongest IPOs
From IPO to the present, Ogilvy PR has secured AsiaInfo's placement in leading international publications. The majority of clips stress the company's solidity in a volatile market. These include Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, AsiaWeek, Far Eastern Economic Review, Upside, Industry Standard, Red Herring, and The New York Times
AsiaInfo’s CEO, James Ding has spoken at 10 industry and investment conferences from Barcelona to New York to Hong Kong, including a leading spot at an Industry Standard Conference, a groundbreaking achievement for a Chinese CEO
Following Ogilvy PR's education outreach, financial analysts from CS First Boston now classify AsiaInfo as “the leading beneficiary of China’s Internet buildout”
AsiaInfo highly endorses Ogilvy PR’s work, saying “Ogilvy PR played an instrumental role in creating and implementing our global IR and PR campaign and ensuring its success in a down market.” - Jessica Shi, Director IR/PR
Lead Investor, Warburg Pincus praises Ogilvy PR, saying "Ogilvy PR helped make AsiaInfo a true China success story – [spreading] wealth among its employees and a top market cap. We look forward to having our other portfolio companies work with Ogilvy[PR] in the future" - Chang Sun, Warburg Pincus Partner