Conference highlights Gulf South rebound

May 10, 2007

This year’s Burkenroad Reports Investment Conference had a decidedly different tone from last year’s event, and according to organizer Peter Ricchiuti, that’s good news for the Gulf South.

“Last year, it was really kind of a feel-good thing––‘We’re still here and we’re gonna make it,’” says Ricchiuti, research director of Burkenroad Reports, the Freeman School’s acclaimed equities research program. “This year it was very clear that businesses have bounced back from Katrina. Companies did very, very well.”

Ricchiuti says banks and energy firms continue to pace Gulf South recovery. Banks have benefited from a huge influx of insurance deposits and strong demand for loans in the wake of Katrina, while energy companies continue to enjoy strong commodity prices. Ricchiuti cites MidSouth Bancorp of Lafayette and Superior Energy Services of Harvey as two examples of Burkenroad companies well positioned to prosper in the coming year.

“People are beginning to have a lot more confidence,” Ricchiuti says. “The only problem for these companies is the shortage of labor. Almost every company ended its presentation with, ‘Next year looks great, but it would look even better if we could find some people.’”

The conference, an annual presentation of the Freeman School, provides investors with the opportunity to hear presentations from the senior management of companies followed by the Burkenroad Reports program. This year, 36 Burkenroad companies delivered presentations and more than 550 investors––an all-time high––attended the conference, which took place on April 27 at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans.

“It’s the only conference where the individual investor can walk right up to the CEO and ask him things,” adds Ricchiuti. “It may not show up on the balance sheet, but when you meet the people that run the company, that really helps you decide whether or not you want to invest your money in that company.”

Banking and energy may have generated most of the buzz this year, but the conference wouldn’t be complete without the small, offbeat companies that Burkenroad Reports specializes in highlighting. This year marked the first appearance by recent Burkenroad addition Reddy Ice, the Dallas-based manufacturer and distributor of bagged ice. “You would have thought Springsteen was performing,” Ricchiuti says. “It was standing room only”

While the conference is great for companies interested in attracting investors, Ricchiuti says the real beneficiaries of Burkenroad Reports remain the student analysts, who can use the experience they gain in the program to land highly competitive jobs in the investment industry. “It’s been a great year for our students going to work in the investment business,” Ricchiuti says. “The job market hasn’t been this strong in 20 years, but I think also the reputation of the Freeman School and Burkenroad Reports is really starting to spread. Our students can hold their own against kids from Harvard and Wharton, and they can hit the ground running a lot better than anybody from those programs because they’ve already done it.”

Last Updated 11/19/08