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Pandemic Seems to Last Forever. So Did Earnings Calls.

Brooke Sutherland and Elaine He

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the coronavirus pandemic turning the world’s economy upside down, analysts and investors have a lot of questions, and companies are doing their best to answer them. So if it feels like earnings calls were extra long these past few weeks, that’s because they were. Among the 29 members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average who normally have earnings calls and have held one since the beginning of March, 22 companies ran longer than usual by an average of about 10 minutes.

Johnson & Johnson executives were the most verbose, with the company’s April 14 earnings call stretching about 1 hour and 43 minutes. That was nearly 26 minutes longer than the average of Johnson & Johnson’s previous four earnings calls. Even Walmart Inc., which doesn’t consistently hold public earnings calls, held an hour-long one on Tuesday to discuss first-quarter results. Analysts are generally grateful to have the extra information, but they, too, are noticing the longer calls. “Sorry, I was just fixing myself some dinner,” joked JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Steve Tusa in the middle of Emerson Electric Co.’s April 21 earnings call, which took place in the morning but stretched on a bit. “This is a pretty comprehensive conference call you’re having here.” Emerson, which isn’t a member of the Dow, included presentations by its major business heads as well as the CEO, CFO and company president. All told, the call lasted more than 2 hours, about 45 minutes longer than the recent average. It’s probably wise to stockpile snacks ahead of the next round of calls in July. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Brooke Sutherland is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals and industrial companies. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.

Elaine He is Bloomberg Opinion's data visualization columnist in Europe, focusing on business and markets coverage. Before joining Bloomberg, she was a graphics editor at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

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