With the Melbourne Cup out of the way, it is now officially the second half of the corporate AGM season. The first month was relatively quiet, although noteworthy developments included the following:
The vote against Rupert Murdoch’s undemocratic gerrymander was even bigger than in 2014, as was reported in this Crikey story.
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From first reportedly not even planning to turn up, James Packer proceeded to make a series of newsworthy statements, none of which have been officially published by Crown, as was noted in this Crikey story. Compare that with Insurance Australia Group, which is one of few listed companies to provide a full transcript of its entire AGM.
A rare example of an ASX 200 company that suffered a second strike on its remuneration report and it was surprising that some institutions were so annoyed that 21% of voted shares also supported the board spill.
For all the noise about divestment and protestors interrupting the AGM, all resolutions passed with more than 98% in favour, including the re-election of chair Diane Smith-Gander.
Not since Maurice Newman’s farewell speech as ASX chairman have we seen a combative chairman’s speech quite like what former McDonald’s CEO Peter Ritchie delivered at the AGM. Before he took aim at proxy advisers over remuneration issues ahead of a second strike, Ritchie said this: “To say we are disappointed with our share price would be a significant understatement. We think the market is making a monumental error.”
Looking forward, there is usually more colour in the second half of the season, especially in late November. Here are a few things to watch out for over the balance of the season:
Facing another shareholder resolution from the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility on the question of better disclosing its carbon financing practices. There is no bigger backer of Australian coal than ANZ, but chairman David Gonski has been resisting meaningful change. It was also noteworthy that as Future Fund chairman, Gonski declined to sign up for the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, something his successor Peter Costello has continued.
Slater + Gordon
Have scurried off to Sydney this year but will have lots of questions to answer about the disastrous Quindell acquisition in the UK, which has halved its share price. Accounting controversies have been front and centre and now two members of the audit committee are seeking re-election. Watch this space for some big protests on November 20.
Chair and CEO have both been removed and the board will be under intense pressure after the recent share price tumble following a warning that first-half profit could be 35% lower. Also plenty of questions to answer in Sydney on November 26 about the pokies following the Ka-ching! documentary.
Chaired by former NSW Premier Nick Greiner since 2004 and a serious under-performer with a range of controversies, including the handling of recent attempts to purchase some or all of the company. After 18 years as CEO, Brian Hodges will finally go, but not until December next year. The AGM next Tuesday in Sydney should be lively with big protest votes expected.
With November 30 falling on a Monday this year, there are far fewer last-day laggards. This is because Monday is traditionally the quietest day for AGMs because proxy voting closes 48 hours before an AGM, and if there is a stuff-up, it is hard to rectify over the weekend. However, the busiest man in corporate Australia, Jeff Kennett, has joined the last-day laggards club this year. He chairs Primary Opinion, the old Jumbuck Entertainment, which will gather with shareholders at noon on November 30 in Cremorne, Melbourne.
The notice only arrived in the snail mail this morning, so naughty Jeffrey failed to give this shareholder the statutory 28 days notice. He’s also seeking retrospective approval of a dilutive institutional placement of 22 million shares at just 2 cents. Most decent companies raise capital through pro-rata entitlement offers these days, but the former Victorian premier has not delivered a happy experience to his retail shareholders.