October 20, 2020 Webranking

French corporate websites lack content in key areas for the capital market

 By Chris Henson

France's largest companies are treading water when it comes to the content on their corporate websites, supplying a base of information across their sites which is generally in line with or somewhat below the European average. They tend to lack the ambition to match stakeholder expectations, though, and drastically underperform in key areas such as shareholder information.

In this year’s Webranking, we reviewed the websites of the 69 largest French companies by market cap. Only 7 of these are currently fulfilling more than 50% of the criteria important to stakeholders on a corporate site, showing there's significant room for improvement in French communications. The average score for French companies is 37.7 points (out of 100), which is more than 5 points below the European average. When digging through the data, it's difficult to find any areas where the companies particularly excel, whereas it's quite easy to spot content gaps such as the glaring lack of shareholder information. While French sites are still offering an adequate service to their stakeholders on the whole, their performance in Webranking has been falling for a couple of years now and work is needed to address the key communication challenges.

Shareholder information is still in minimal supply

Providing stakeholders with information about the share is clearly a major weakness of French websites. They sit bottom of the pile when comparing the largest 20 companies from 14 ranked European countries, fulfilling an average of just 23% of the criteria most important to investors and analysts. When taking a closer look at where French companies are particularly failing to deliver on this information, there are a few stand-out areas. For example, information on major shareholders is in very low supply, which is alarming considering this is important for 93% of the corporate website users who answered our latest Capital Market survey. Investors and analysts seek to understand a company's shareholder structure, and yet only 23% of French companies provide information on those who own large blocks of the company, and just 16% show the distribution of their shareholders by type or by geography.

French companies don't share their capital development

Only 3 of the 69 French companies provide any information on the capital development of their share: Michelin, Sodexo, and Vinci. Showing corporate actions such as share splits and bonus issues that have impacted the share capital over time is really valuable, as this can offer stakeholders a glimpse of how the company might react to future events. Ideally this information should be presented in a table for ease of visualisation. To take Michelin as an example, they provide details of changes in their share capital extending back to 2008, with the information downloadable into Excel for further analysis if required.

General company information is a mixed bag for stakeholders

French companies perform somewhat better at providing their stakeholders with general company information, often found under the 'About us' portion of their websites. The only area where they offer information more freely than the European average is Research & Development, with 59% of companies scoring in this area. It's important for companies to be as informative and engaging as possible about their R&D work, as this information is relevant for all stakeholders. For example, many investors would like a stake in innovative, future-focused companies, and many jobseekers want to work in dynamic, cutting edge environments. Leading manufacturer Saint-Gobain are an example of a French company supplying a raft of material on their latest developments, from case studies to news and stories.

One area where French companies are not quite rising to the meet their stakeholders' expectations, though, is the business model. French sites only include an average of 13% of the information sought, which is one of the lowest rates on the continent, and as many as 65% of the companies don't present their business model at all. This low fulfilment is in stark contrast with our research, which shows the business model is key for more than 90% of the capital market. Users also prefer to find it directly on the website, as opposed to tucked away in a PDF report. A good business model should cover even more than just how the company generates profit and creates value. It should describe how the company differentiates from its competitors and who the target market is.

France's winners and the biggest climber

Vinci tops the France list for the 5th consecutive year, this time by a margin of 10 points. Their highly informative website continues to set the standard for how French companies can service their stakeholders. Arkema follow in 2nd, while Total round off the podium, dropping one spot from last year's runner-up finish. The best climber in France this year is Crédit Agricole, who improved their score by a very impressive 13 points, a reward for their content work since the previous season. The bank have jumped from 68th to 38th in the list, with a score of 36.7.

RankCompanyScore (out of 100)
1Vinci69.5
2Arkema59.5
3Total58.5
4ArcelorMittal54.1
5Air Liquide52.6
6Axa51.8
7Legrand51.4
8Airbus49.6
9Michelin47.3
10LVMH46.9


See the full French results

Helena Wennergren

Head of Research

helena.wennergren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 10

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