So many AGMs, so little time for investors

So many AGMs, so little time for investors

Next Friday, investor Mano Sabnani has 22 annual general meetings to attend in a span of about 10 hours, in locations spread out across the island.

The chief executive of financial consultancy Rafflesia Holdings, who has an investment portfolio of more than 50 companies, is not pleased as he has to give up attending some of them.

"I decided to attend the AGM by Overseas Union Enterprise at Mandarin Orchard at 10am. So I'll have to miss out on the AGMs of CapitaLand, YHI International and Nordic Group, all of which I have shares in, because they are happening at the same time," he said.

Close to 400 companies will be holding AGMs from now till April 30, the deadline for companies with a Dec 31 financial year end.

The problem is most pronounced on Friday next week. A check of the SGX website shows about 100 AGMs will be held that day.

From 9am, up to 20 firms will be having their AGMs every half hour in the morning or late afternoon, making it challenging for a shareholder with a diversified portfolio to travel from one location to another.

The trend of AGMs clustering and clashing in April has made it more difficult for shareholders to attend them, said Mr David Gerald, president and chief executive of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or Sias.

"This serious clustering of AGMs makes it difficult for shareholders holding shares in multiple companies to attend AGMs. Some companies with poor governance may get away with bad results and unscrutinised resolutions," he said.

"This is particularly important when shareholders want to ask questions like why directors are paid such high fees when the company is losing money or not giving out dividends."

Mr Sabnani suggested that the SGX ensure the AGMs are spread evenly across April's working days.

"AGMs could be scheduled in time lots once every two hours from 9am till 7pm. And up to five or six companies can take up each slot on a first come, first served basis.

"This will reduce the stress not only on shareholders, but also for independent directors, auditors and public relations companies who have to be present at AGMs," said Mr Sabnani.

Alternatively, companies could do more to help shareholders get up to speed, suggested Mr Gerald.

"Companies can adopt e-solutions such as webcasting their AGMs live and also produce good-quality AGM minutes. The Acca-KPMG Stakeholder Communication study in 2011 and 2012 showed that only about seven listed companies published detailed minutes of their AGMs," he said.

Mr Gerald also agrees that SGX should step in and introduce new guidelines.

"The regulatory and listing requirements relating to the maximum time allowed for companies to hold their AGMs and to announce results must be given a relook," he said.

"Perhaps SGX could consider allocating the dates and times and ensure a cap is imposed on the number of companies holding AGMs on any one day.

"Companies should also plan ahead and publish their AGM dates as early as possible so as to enable shareholders to plan early and appoint proxies to attend meetings on their behalf."

rjscully@sph.com.sg


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