Four-year-old IT consultancy Axon turned down nine friendly
takeover approaches in 1998, six from US companies. But the e-commerce
specialist decided to go it alone and raise new cash by listing on the
It turned to corporate communications specialist Grandfield to handle
To generate financial and analyst support for the flotation when many
commentators had decided IT shares were too expensive. To support the
status of the company in the eyes of clients and employees.
Grandfield had four months to prime influential City journalists and
analysts covering the IT sector without blowing the cover on Axon’s
The agency began by talking to the City’s top IT analysts about Axon in
order to stimulate interest both in the company, especially its
involvement in e-commerce, and general marketplace. Two similar firms -
Druid and Diagonal - were already stock market-listed and had both
witnessed their shares rocket since flotation. Grandfield hoped analysts
would guess that Axon too was being groomed for flotation and be lured
to briefings at a later date.
Formed in chief executive Mark Hunter’s bedroom four years ago, Axon had
grown to sales of pounds 20 million and was set for a stock market value
of around pounds 100 million. Knowing that the outspoken Hunter would be
an interesting person to profile, Grandfield organised an interview with
the 36-year-old for the Sunday Times column ’My First Break’.
On the same day (7 February), the Sunday Times was given the green light
to break news of the flotation. Grandfield issued an ’intention to
float’ press release which was followed up by other nationals on Monday
Briefings were arranged for senior trade journalists from Computing,
Computer Weekly and System House. On 16 February, Axon’s pathfinder
prospectus and press release were issued to all nationals, wire services
and the Evening Standard. After a second City briefing, Grandfield made
the written views of broking firms available to the press and provided
access to key analysts.
Pricing the issue on 5 March provided another peg for more press contact
with the company and analysts. First dealings on 11 March saw Grandfield
lobbying market reporters and line journalists for further coverage.
Virtually all the nationals, including the Daily Telegraph, the Daily
Mail, the Express, the Financial Times, the Independent and the Sunday
Times picked up the story when Axon’s pathfinder prospectus was
Post-flotation, Hunter was profiled in the Express and the Observer.
One top IT investment analyst described it as the best presentation he
had seen in the sector for 13 years.
On 5 March, Axon’s stockbroking adviser, WestLB Panmure, said the share
placing with fund managers had been eight times oversubscribed.
Priced at 175p, Axon shares soared to 268p within an hour when they
began trading on 11 March.
Grandfield managed to overcome the City’s lack of interest in smaller
companies and its doubts about IT companies - in particular that stocks
By focusing on Axon’s e-commerce capabilities, the agency successfully
differentiated its client for analysts and journalists who had ’seen it
Client: Axon Group plc
PR Team: Grandfield
Campaign: Flotation on the London Stock Exchange
Timescale: October 1998 to March 1999