S'pore-listed firms must hold AGMs here from Jan

PHOTO: S'pore-listed firms must hold AGMs here from Jan

THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) is taking steps to improve shareholder access to annual general meetings and to ensure their AGM votes are tallied accurately.

From Jan 1 next year, all companies and trusts with a primary listing here will have to hold their AGMs in Singapore, the SGX said in an announcement yesterday.

Most companies do this already, but some still hold their meetings abroad. For instance, earlier this year, some China companies listed here - Full Apex (Holdings) and Kingboard Copper Foil Holdings - held AGMs in Hong Kong or mainland China.

The AGM is the only chance most retail investors have to meet and question management.

In June 2011, the SGX issued a consultation paper proposing that all firms with primary listings here be required to hold their AGMs in Singapore. Under the new rule, if a locally-listed firm faces legal constraints preventing it from holding AGMs in Singapore, "they are advised to provide alternative modes of engagement" with shareholders, the SGX said.

This could be a webcast or organising meetings for shareholders based here.

Under another new rule, listed companies and trusts will be required to conduct voting by poll by Aug 1, 2015.

Many firms have long used a show of hands by shareholders to determine the outcome of resolutions, rather than a poll where all votes are counted.

The bourse operator said the move will enhance voting transparency and encourage greater shareholder participation.

The SGX will also require the prompt disclosure of these voting outcomes, again from Aug 1, 2015.

Q&M Dental Group is one company that has been using the show of hands method.

Its general counsel V. Subramaniam said: "Although Q&M has more than 1,000 shareholders, only about 30 to 40 will show up at the AGM. Also, a bulk of Q&M's shares are held by a small number of people who have a majority of the voting rights; so having to conform to this rule will be disadvantageous to us in terms of cost."

He said they will have to spend more money on manpower such as engaging scrutineers and paying for electronic polling devices.

Stock activist Denis Distant welcomed the move if polls are conducted electronically and the results announced promptly.

"It'll be a chore and so time consuming if the poll is done manually (via slips of paper)," he said.

It does not have to be a one-size-fits-all approach, he said. "SGX could let firms with a smaller shareholder base stick to the show of hands method while those with a larger shareholder base should implement voting by poll electronically."


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