Typically, investors go to conference presentations because they want an update on a company's financial situation.
They got no such information when idiosyncratic Hans Snook took the podium on Tuesday morning at
Global Telecommunications investor conference in New York City. Instead, the former chief executive of U.K.-based wireless carrier
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(and current special advisor to the company's chairman and board) treated his audience to a presentation that was long on theatrics but short on everything else.
The half-hour show began with an opening taken from the futuristic 1968 classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey," and was dominated by videos intended to highlight the various data initiatives embraced by the
spinoff. At the end of it all, when the last of the playful and attractive young people had flitted off the screen, one investor asked, half-jokingly, "Earnings?"
Snook -- clad in his trademark leather jacket, Nehru shirt and jeans -- barely made mention of the company's financial state, except to rattle off some figures at the end, intending to make the point that Orange is seeking to establish revenue beyond its voice applications.
You'd think some cold, hard numbers, in addition to a report on the state of the company would be forthcoming now that a month has passed since the spinoff, a disappointing spinoff at that, one that underscored the lack of enthusiasm for the shares of telecom carriers. Institutional investors paid only 10 euros ($9.32) a share for Orange's initial public offering, well below the 18 euros a share expected as early as the beginning of the year. The shares fell below the issue price after they started trading.
In addition, there are questions about the company's prospects in an environment that's seen dimming prospects for wireless telcos -- what with the high prices paid for spectrum and the huge cost of building advanced data networks -- it's safe to say that investors wanted more than slogans like Orange as the "remote control for life" and scenes from an intelligent home controlled only by wireless technology.
And don't forget the video featuring Ananova, a bewitching green-haired animated Internet newscaster used to give personalized news and other information.
Ananova -- can you say
Kournikova ? -- has her own
Web site and was bought by Orange for 95 million pounds ($142.5 million) last July from the U.K.'s Press Association.
That, we imagine, is a small price to pay when image is everything.