It’s not often that I have the opportunity to sit in as the heads of a major company give an overview of yearly earnings. To be sure, it is a vast departure from the numerous new-product announcements and field days that I attend on a regular basis.
But what is said at these relatively brief media events can have a significant impact on not only the company itself, but investors, stockholders and even customers. And these announcements can also foreshadow future company, and industry, trends and outlook. So as a reporter, it’s my job to soak in as much as I can in the brief time available.
First, let me set the stage a bit. I attended Syngenta’s 2011 full year results announcement in Basel, Switzerland. As the only U.S. journalist attending, I was quickly surrounded by nearly 30 journalists from around the world. And we’re not talking just agricultural publications. Since Syngenta is traded on stock exchanges around the globe, journalists from the financial sector outnumbered the farm reporters.
We sit in an open room while the leadership of Syngenta — chief executive officer, chief financial officer and two chief operating officers — provide members of the media a synopsis of how Syngenta as a company fared. And it’s not just running down a balance sheet: specific regions are discussed, as well as business units.
For me, Syngenta is most closely associated with the audience I write for – the corn and soybean producers in North America. But listening to the speakers, I begin to understand the global footprint of companies like Syngenta. We not only hear about sales of seed treatments in North America, but new chemical launches in France, market development activities in Latin America, and seed sales of flowers.
There’s a lot at stake when these numbers are announced. Traders from all corners of the globe want to know how the company fared in 2011, and its outlook for 2012. Investors, large and small, have a stake in what is being said. In fact, the CEO of Syngenta, Michael Mack, had already been interviewed by several financial television stations early that same morning.
So what does it have to do with the North American producer? Plenty. The overall financial health of a global company also ensures that investment dollars are readily available for research and development. A good year of sales means a positive market reaction, which leads to better stock prices, and more investment capital. And more investment in research means better, more productive products for your farm.
After the formal presentation, there are a series of questions from the journalists on specific market segments. I get the time to meet with Davor Pisk, chief operating officer who is in charge of the North American market. We talk about the general health of the North American agricultural sector and Syngenta’s plans in that market.
The visit and interviews are very productive. I can cover a wide variety of topics with key leadership. And it allows me to ask probing questions for future articles to appear in Farm Industry News.
Some additional interviews, and the crowd clears. It’s then off to write about what was said, and give our readers information to not only inform, but to help them do their job better and more productively.