Forgetting to set the alarm when you’re booked on a 6.15am flight is never a good idea, so this thoroughly disorganised shareholder-activist has unfortunately missed some great AGM action in Sydney today.

However, there is one saving grace — being stuck in Melbourne means I did get to put Coles chairman Rick Allert through his paces at the Axa AGM.

The Sydney action would have been a ridiculous juggling act given this timetable:

Australand: 10am, Sofitel

Rural Press: 10am, Sofitel

Macquarie Airports: 11am, Sheraton on the Park

Capral Aluminium: 11am, Grace Hotel

Throw in Axa in Melbourne and Woodside in Perth and today is easily the busiest day in this mini-AGM season for all companies with 31 December balance dates.

Considering that the Rural Press date for the Fairfax merger vote has been known for some time, you do wonder if the five other companies just coincidentally picked the same day. After all, what are the odds of having no meetings of note on Tuesday and then six today?

Whilst the Rural Press EGM would have been interesting, the result does seem like a foregone conclusion. Still, it would have been fun to argue the case for controlling shareholder John B Fairfax to replace the utterly inappropriate Ron Walker as chairman of the combined company sooner rather than later.

I’ve never come across two shareholder meetings starting at the same time in the same hotel before, so it would have been a case of slipping out of Rural Press to lob a few questions at the Singapore Government-controlled Australand about the use of Burke and Grill in WA and the departure of WA general manager Chris Lewis last month.

Macquarie Airports is always fun to pursue the gouging and excessive management fees by the controller of Sydney airport. Exploring the relationship between this Bermuda-based outfit and the Macquarie-packaged barbarians bidding for Qantas was also an obvious line of questioning.

Capral Aluminium sounds boring but this mob has been bleeding red ink and the normally astute Ron Brierley group GPG have dropped more than $40 million on their controlling stake.

Only last month, GPG underwrote a heavily under-subscribed $50 million Capral convertible note issue forced on the company by ANZ as part of a debt restructure. The tidy 3% underwriting fee presumably softened the pain.

Peter Fray

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