As published by the FT’s Investors Chronicle, the 19th annual edition of Webranking reveals that while Europe’s 500 largest multinationals are improving their online communication, they still have a way to go to adequately respond to capital market needs.
Italian and Nordic companies dominate the top 15
Nordic countries continue to score high on transparency, with 6 Swedish and 2 Finnish companies making the top 15. Italy’s largest multinationals, on the other hand, continue to dominate the ranks, with ENI retaining first place with 89.1 points, followed by Telecom Italia with 86.6 points and Snam with 85.9 points.
Encouragingly, companies from a mix of European countries are showing clear improvements in how they communicate to their stakeholders via digital channels. Polish basic resources company, KGHM, Swiss telecoms company Swisscom and Italian insurance company Generali each improved by more than 17 points respectively.
Less than a third of European companies meet market needs, however move to HTML report shows digital progress
This year’s data shows that European companies are reluctant to present the nitty-gritty data expected by the capital market. Information such as risk management, debt, financial information and megatrends are being ignored by the largest multinationals across Europe. Despite well over half of stakeholders deeming its importance, 75% of European companies do not provide this information
On the other hand, an increasing number of companies publish an online annual report (40%) and although the HTML report is still not the norm, this number has almost doubled since 2014 (where 25% of companies offered a fully digital report). This suggests European companies are looking to add more value by focusing on tailored content.
CSR issues a point of contention between stakeholders and companies, whilst reporting figures increase
When it comes to CSR related matters, companies and stakeholders may be coming from two very different angles. Broad categories of stakeholders now expect major companies to be responsible and transparent about social and environmental issues, yet few European multinationals are actually reporting on these factors. In fact, an increase of only 1 percentage point of companies publish environmental targets (30% vs 29% in 2014), and only 31% present social targets, down from 34%.
Despite issues of disclosure on their corporate website, 73% of European companies publish a CSR report in PDF format, up from 52% last year. This higher number illustrates the increasing importance of CSR in companies reporting processes.
Sector performance: chemicals best, whilst retailers and banks remain the laggards of the pack
In line with last year, chemicals companies top the ranking with an average of 48.5 points, led again by German giants BASF and Bayer. A very strong performance is given by the insurance sector, which moves up seven places to take second spot at 45.7 points. Despite improving their overall score since last year, among the worst performing sectors we find the same culprits as last year. Retailers continue to perform poorly with 34.2 points, alongside banks who close below the average with 39.2 points. Financial services providers continue to rank as the worst performing sector with 32.5 points.
Webranking as a transparency stress test
Comprend’s Webranking research is the most well-known analysis of corporate and financial communications in Europe. Based on stakeholder needs – tracked through annual surveys – the research evaluates companies’ ability to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive environment and how they respond to external information requests. The companies that pass this stress test demonstrate an ability to govern their reputation in digital channels: they create an opportunity to build a “premium” status with key stakeholders, which can facilitate access to capital and business markets, help attract the best talent and build capacities for better handling reputational crises.
Caroline Becker, Project Manager for Webranking by Comprend in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, comments, “Webranking proves that being transparent online is crucial in building trust with customers and stakeholders. It is therefore encouraging to see European companies improving, although it is clear that work still needs to be done when it comes to presenting clear cut information on investor relations and CSR.”
European companies improving – the figures
Considering 50 points out of 100 as the threshold at which companies respond adequately to market requirements, this year 127 companies in Europe pass the stress test, up from 92 companies in 2014. The failure rate, or those companies at the bottom of the ranking with less than 30 points (meaning they do not meet the minimum content required by the market), decreased significantly from 29% to 16% this year.
Despite this improvement, well over half of companies (59%) still achieve between 30-50 points (finding themselves in the “held back” category), meaning that 3 out of 4 companies are not passing the test. Low scores were predominantly found in areas related to investor relations.
- Read our news piece on how Austrian companies performed
- Read our news piece on how Swiss companies performed
- Read our news piece on how Italian companies performed (in Italian)
For further information regarding the research and order a full company report, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Webranking by Comprend is Europe’s most in-depth analysis of online financial and corporate communication. The highlight is the Europe 500 study, which ranks the largest companies in Europe (FT Europe 500 index). Highlights of the research are presented and distributed in a magazine and the full ranking is published on Comprend’s website.
Going back almost 20 years, Webranking by Comprend now surveys more than 800 websites across the globe using criteria that are based on the views of people who actually use corporate information. Every year an exclusive panel of about 450 analysts, investors, shareholders, job seekers, journalists and other stakeholders is asked what information and services are the most important to them.