Winners 2019

Best City communications

IPO of Kazatomprom
The Aramco of the Uranium Industry
Agency: Powerscourt Group

Kazatomprom is the world’s biggest producer of natural uranium. Formerly 100 per cent owned by the Kazakhstan government, financial PR consultancy Powerscourt was appointed to advise on its initial public offering (IPO) following the launch of an extensive privatisation scheme to reduce the government’s share in the economy to 15 per cent.

From the outset, there were multiple communications challenges. The company had neither an investor relations or communications department but instead enjoyed a classic ‘state-owned’ culture, prompting perceptions of poor governance. Kazatomprom also operated in a poorly understood sector, which had been further impacted by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and a well-coordinated anti-nuclear campaign.

Market conditions were also not promising. Several high profile IPOs, such as Aston Martin, had performed badly, which had impacted investor sentiment and appetite. It did not bode well for an entirely unknown corporate entity, run by a new management team.

Powerscourt’s strategy was based around control – managing the profile, engaging at the right time, keeping all communications clear and risk free and introducing a ‘well-defined leak strategy’ – and simplicity – identifying core messages and ensuring they remained consistent throughout the process.

In practice, this meant conducting a series of briefing sessions with key media to ensure that they both understood and appreciated the strengths of the investment case.

The strapline the Aramco of the uranium industry – referencing the Saudi Arabia-owned petrochemicals giant – was mentioned at an informal briefing with the Financial Times, which the paper picked up: other media outlets swiftly adopted the moniker, which grabbed the attention of target audiences. None of the coverage alluded to any other Kazakh issues.

It was also necessary to educate stakeholders, such as regulators, institutional investors and market participants, about uranium. This drew on work that Powerscourt had done for its client Yellow Cake, a company formed to trade uranium, which listed on the AIM market in 2018.

Powerscourt also had to establish both PR and investor relations functions within Kazatomprom, as well as introducing appropriate governance processes. Working with a leading PR firm based in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, helped Powerscourt to overcome the language barriers and also coordinate PR on the ground.

The agency also worked with new chief executive Galymzhan Pirmatov and his team to define a vision for Kazatomprom and the uranium industry. He announced the new strategy at the World Nuclear Association Symposium in London, two months ahead of the planned IPO. On the day that Kazatomprom floated on both the London Stock Exchange and the nascent Astana International Finance Center, Pirmatov was interviewed on Bloomberg. This subsequently went viral on social media.

The share price has risen by more than 20 per cent since listing, and Kazatomprom is now viewed as the bellwether for uranium stocks. It has also set the stage for other Kazakh companies looking to list in London.

The judges said that Powerscourt had ‘started with a blank piece of paper, and went beyond traditional financial PR’ but had also worked ‘with both a difficult jurisdiction and sector’. They felt that the strategy was well structured, clear on objectives and had deployed strong tactics.