Paul Myners Obituary and BHP Unification Meetings

Lord Myners has died at the age of 73. He had a big hand in the rescue of the banks in the financial crisis of 2008 as a Treasury Minister in the Labour Government after becoming the socialists’ favourite capitalist. He was also responsible for the Myners Report into institutional investment which had some influence on corporate governance and institutional stewardship in the UK.

I met him a few times and he had a very persuasive personality but as the comments from Lord Rose below indicate he was not always straightforward. That included evasive answers in Parliament. For example, this comment on the nationalisation of Northern Rock: “The essential intention in taking Northern Rock into temporary public ownership was to stabilise the banking system and to reassure people that a deposit placed with a British bank is a safe deposit”. His forceful actions during the banking crisis which resulted in the effective nationalisation of big UK banks were not appreciated by many.

Stuart Rose made extensive comments in an adulatory article in the FT on his work with Myners during the attempted takeover of M&S including this: “The climax of the takeover battle, following the shareholder presentations and the massively attended annual meeting at The Royal Festival Hall, was the final board meeting. Paul’s sure-handed chairing saved the day. Using a combination of wisdom, wit, guile, persuasion and patience we saw off Green’s opportunistic approach”.

BHP Meetings

I watched the General Meetings of BHP Plc (BHP) today where there was a vote for unification of the Australian and UK companies. BHP will retain a UK listing but it will only be a “standard” listing so will no longer be in the FSTE-100. AGMs will only be held in Australia although on-line access will be provided.

This prompted a question regarding future “engagement” with the board from a shareholder who expressed concerns that hybrid AGMs reduced interaction with the directors and made follow-up questions difficult. He was certainly right in that regard. On-line access is not nearly as good as being physically present and clearly most investors will not find it practical to fly to Australia to attend in person. This is one of the few downsides of the unification, but it otherwise makes sense. The result of the voting is still awaited at the time of writing.

Postscript: There was overwhelming support for the unification by both Ltd and Plc shareholders.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Cladding Rectification – Persimmon et al.

My first big investment mistake of the year came to light yesterday. In October last year I started to buy a holding in Persimmon (PSN). The outlook for the housing market seemed bright and the company was trading on a prospective p/e of 11 with a yield of 8.6%. Revenue and earnings growth were forecast for the next couple of years.

But Michael Gove yesterday put a spanner in the works of my decision process by announcing that the Government is going to force developers to fix the cladding crisis – initially by persuasion but if they don’t come up with the money by early March there is threat of legislation to force them to act. The share price of Persimmon dropped sharply as a result along with all the major public housebuilders.

In April last year the company said that they were “Committed to undertake fire remedial works on buildings constructed using cladding materials that may no longer comply with current Government guidance and building regulations; £75m fund created to cover developments identified”. In addition the Annual Report said this: “As announced on 10 February 2021, we have therefore decided that for any multi-storey developments we have built, we will ensure that the necessary work to protect residents is undertaken. Where we own the building, we will act to do what is necessary to keep the residents safe. Where we do not own the building, we will work with the owner and offer our support. Ultimately, if the owners do not step up and meet their obligations, we will ensure the work is done to make the buildings safe. To meet this commitment, we have recognised a £75m provision”.

This seems reasonable but the Government is now asking them to do more. In a letter the Secretary of State has asked companies to agree to:

  1. make financial contributions to a dedicated fund to cover the full outstanding cost to remediate unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings, currently estimated to be £4 billion.
  2. fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing.
  3. provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 meters which have historic safety defects and which they have played a part in constructing in the last 30 years.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-forces-developers-to-fix-cladding-crisis for the full Government announcement.

How did this devasting situation arise that has left hundreds of thousands of people with unaffordable bills to rectify defects and unsaleable homes? It all stems from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster after which it was discovered that cladding used was inflammable despite it being sold as meeting fire safety regulations. In addition it was found that many buildings had other defects such as inflammable insulation, inflammable balconies, missing fire gaps, or other fire safety defects so the total bill to rectify all affected buildings might reach many billions of pounds.

The Government has already committed £5 billion to rectification work but more is needed to cover buildings up to 18 metres high and big builders are being asked to stump up much of the cost irrespective of whether they were to blame or not. Clearly much of the blame should be assigned to those who manufactured and sold the defective cladding, or even the Government for not imposing and enforcing adequate regulations. Housebuilders are complaining they should not have to foot all the bill.

Will the actions of the Government even fix the problem? The devil is in the detail as it is unclear that the leaseholders will not still be left with bills beyond their means to pay and years of uncertainty while their properties remain unsaleable. One has to have sympathy with their predicament but I also feel that the big housebuilders are being unreasonably targeted. Those who were at fault should certainly pay the cost of rectification but the Government seems to be wanting to bully those with money to pay up by using the court of public opinion, and threats. This is wrong.

The Government should identify who was at fault and assign responsibility in a clear legal and regulatory framework. Otherwise there may be years of legal battles which will not help those who are suffering.

Perhaps the moral of this story is that it is always a mistake to invest in companies that might be affected by Government interference or political whims.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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New Year Forecasts and Internet Retailers

It’s that time of year when share tipsters start to issue their bets for the New Year. But the collapse of on-line grocer Farmdrop and recent profit warning from Boohoo (BOO) prompts me to think that one thing I will be avoiding next year is on-line retailers apart possibly from the gorillas already in that space.

Unlisted Farmdrop went out of business a few days ago so customers who were expecting deliveries of farm produce for Xmas won’t get them. Farmdrop is reported to have raised as much as $40 million in capital and has as many as 10,000 customers and 450 suppliers who will be having a threadbare Christmas. The company was making substantial losses based on its last filed accounts.

Farmdrop had competitors, as of course does Boohoo. I think entrepreneurs have realised that it is now very easy to set up an on-line shopping site using software such as Shopify, and there are in reality no barriers to entry. The products such as groceries or fast fashion are not unique but investors have been piling money into such businesses without thought as to how profits can be achieved. Companies have been spending enormous amounts on marketing on the basis that will get them to high enough revenue to cover their costs. But other companies are doing the same. Established players such as Boohoo will no doubt survive albeit at reduced profit margins as they will suffer a welter of small fish nibbling at their market share as the lure of apparent future profits draws in new entrants.

Physical retailers are not in a good position either with the Covid-10 epidemic resurging and forecasts being made of more lock-downs after Christmas. But they have at least moved to have on-line shopping options to a large extent, using their strong, well-known brand names and financial strength to take market share.

With personal taxes rising, and given the above, my tip for the New Year is to avoid retailers unless they have dominant positions or clear barriers to entry and definitely avoid small companies trying to establish themselves in already crowded internet markets.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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BHP Unification

As a small shareholder in BHP Group (BHP) I have just received a heavyweight document (285 pages) explaining the proposed unification of the company. This proposal is to remove the dual listed structure of the Australian and UK companies and the complex corporate structure associated with that.

For UK shareholders of BHP Group Plc this will mean, if it is voted through, that you will have your Plc shares replaced by Depositary Interests (DIs) on a one for one basis in BHP Limited (the Australian company). Those DIs will be administered by Computershare and this is similar to how most foreign registered shares are managed. Those with BHP Group Plc paper share certificates will have those replaced by electronic DIs. Share dividends will be paid directly to you in sterling as before.

For those with very small holdings of certificated Plc shares there is a facility to sell your shares if you do not wish to hold the Ltd shares in future.

One major implication is that the new Limited Shares will not be covered by a Primary Listing in the London Stock Exchange but will likely be only a “standard” listing. This may cause some institutions who manage index-based funds such as UK focussed trackers to need to sell the shares, although as the new shares will increase the total number of Ltd shares listed worldwide there may be purchasing of the shares by other funds to maintain their index proportions. There may be some short-term volatility in the share price as a result.

At present the price of the Australian listed shares can significantly differ from the UK listed shares, after accounting for exchange rates. The unification will mean only one price applies in future. BHP Plc shares have historically traded at a lower price than the Limited shares and that differential will be eliminated.

Note that the exchange of shares for UK shareholders should not incur any capital gains liability – it will be treated as a “roll-over” not a sale/purchase transaction. There will also be no Australian withholding tax applying to future dividends.

BHP management gave a presentation to ShareSoc members this week on the unification which I watched and as a result I can see no reason not to support this transaction. Hence I will be voting in favour.

The above is a simple explanation of a complex transaction. So please read the supporting documents for the meetings at which this transaction will be voted upon on the 20thJanuary. You can also log-in online to view the meetings. Go to https://www.bhp.com/unify for more explanation, the shareholder circular and prospectus.

But please make sure you vote your shares, including those in any nominee accounts!

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Electric Vehicles, Pod Point IPO and Bulb Rescue Cost

If the Government has its way, we’ll all be driving electric cars (EVs) soon. One of the concerns of drivers though is they might run out of battery power so the provision of chargers is of key importance in driving acceptance of electric cars.

There is clearly a big potential market for chargers, not just in homes but also in public places, at office car parks, supermarkets and other venues. One of the providers of chargers is Pod Point Group (PODP) who recently undertook a public stock market listing (IPO). The prospectus they issued (see link below) gives a very good overview of the market for electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure in the UK.

Pod Point was founded in 2009 and has installed over 100,000 charge points mainly in the UK. There are government grants available (OZEV) for home installations although those are likely to be withdrawn or altered from 2022. The government is also funding from 2022 large on-street charging schemes and rapid charging hubs across England. Meanwhile car manufacturers are focussing on production of new electric only (Battery Electric Vehicles – BEVs) and hybrid models. Some 6.6% of new vehicles sales were EVs in 2020 and by 2040 it is estimated that 70% of all vehicles on our roads will be EVs.

Chargers fall into two main categories – AC and DC with the latter providing more rapid charging. Home charging is typically via slow AC because UK homes do not have 3-phase electricity supplies. There are several different connector types. Pod Point estimate they have 50-60% of the UK home charge points and 29% share of public installations. But there are a number of competitors include BP Pulse. Petrol station forecourts are one location where chargers are being installed but it is unclear where the dominant charging location (home, office, etc) will be in future.

Those people with homes with no off-street parking will need to charge at public locations unless viable “pavement” chargers are developed. London-based Connected Kerb plans to install 190,000 on-street chargers by 2030.

Pod Point owns some installations under commercial arrangements with venue locations and that includes 396 Tesco sites where slow chargers are installed. Is that to encourage shoppers to spend more time in the store while their vehicle is recharging one wonders?

Pod Point doubled its revenue in 2020 and more than doubled its revenue in the first six months of 2021, but still made a large operating loss. The market cap of Pod Point at the time of writing is about £380 million.

How the market for the provision of EV chargers will develop is unclear and there are the usual numerous risk warnings in the prospectus. Government interference in the sector is clearly one risk and when a market is growing rapidly there are often folks willing to plunge in regardless of short-term profitability. The big oil companies are also moving into the sector and might provide significant competition.

An example of the problem caused by misguided Government interference in free markets is the collapse of Bulb which is apparently going to cost £1.7 billion to keep it afloat and ensure customers remain connected to gas supplies. It could be more if the market price of gas continues to rise. The cost to the Government will mean it is one of the largest bail-outs they have had to provide since the banking crisis in 2008, and they are unlikely to get their money back in this case.

As for most IPOs I will be avoiding investing in Pod Point until the company is clearly profitable and its market more established but the company has certainly come a long way in a short period of time. Trying to forecast the future profitability of Pod Point is exceedingly difficult – there are just too many variables.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

Pod Point Group Prospectus: https://investors.pod-point.com/prospectus

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Bulb Collapse, Telecom Plus Results and FCA Globo Action

Yesterday energy supplier Bulb collapsed and was put into Special Administration. Bulb has 1.7 million customers and is the largest of 20 alternative energy suppliers to go bust recently. Most of their customers have been taken on by other suppliers but apparently nobody was willing to take on Bulb’s so effectively the company has been nationalised.

These companies have all been hit by the rapid rise in gas prices while the price cap imposed by Ofgem meant they could not raise their prices to their customers. Established suppliers such as Telecom Plus (TEP) consistently complained that the newer energy suppliers were building a customer base by selling at less than cost and the irrational price cap proved to be their undoing. Forcing businesses to fix their customer prices when input prices are based on market whims is a recipe for financial disaster in any market.

Coincidentally Telecom Plus, which I hold, published their half-year results this morning. They are a likely beneficiary from suppliers disappearing from the market. They reported “Net customer growth in October of over 15,000 and they are expecting around 10% growth in customer base during H2 with double-digit annual percentage growth thereafter”. There is always someone who benefits from financial disasters.

They also made these comments: “Over twenty energy companies have ceased trading since the summer, leaving over two million customers dependent on the safety net provided by the market regulator, Ofgem, to maintain their supplies and protect their credit balances through the Supplier of Last Resort (SOLR) mechanism.  These corporate failures take the total number of suppliers that have exited the market in the past five years to over 50, with further failures expected over the coming months.

Whilst primarily blamed on rising wholesale prices, this catalogue of failures, and the associated billions of pounds of costs that will ultimately be borne by consumers, reflect a regulatory regime that encouraged a clearly unsustainable ‘race-to-the-bottom’ approach to competition.  The resultant price war has eroded consumer trust and caused significant financial detriment, as the cost of these failures will need to be recouped through higher energy bills over the coming years.

Ofgem’s recent open letter to energy suppliers is therefore a welcome statement of intent to reform the regulatory framework towards one that genuinely fosters sustainability, investment, good service and fair competition amongst properly resourced and differentiated suppliers.

It is clear that the retail energy market has undergone a paradigm shift, bringing an end to the unsustainable practices which had become widespread over the last seven years of selling energy below cost to attract new customers, using customer credit balances as working capital, and failing to accrue for regulated renewable obligation payments.

In that environment, it stands to reason that an established, well-capitalised energy supplier benefiting from a sustainable cost advantage that is derived from bringing consumers a highly differentiated ‘all your home services in one’ proposition, should thrive.   As the dust settles on the prolonged energy market price war, we believe we are better positioned than ever to grow our market share significantly over the coming months and years”.

Other news today is a report in the Financial Times that the FCA have filed an action in the High Court against the former CEO and CFO of Globo (GBO). That company collapsed in 2015 after the accounts were shown to be a complete work of fiction with the claimed cash on the balance sheet non-existent and revenue also fictitious. It was a similar case to the more recent one of Patisserie Valerie also audited by Grant Thornton. The FRC declined to take action over the audit of Globo but it is good to hear that after so many years the FCA is finally taking some action.

As a former shareholder in Globo I have an interest in this matter and did provide some information to the FCA but there has been no contact from them since 2019. I am trying to find out more about the nature of the legal action now pursued (there is nothing on the FCA web site).  

Globo well demonstrates the weakness of UK audits, the poor enforcement by the FRC and FCA, the lack of transparency over what they are doing and the length of time it takes for those bodies to take action.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Two High Fliers Back Down to Earth

This week saw a couple of high-flying digital automation suppliers move back into more realistic pricing levels. On Tuesday DotDigital (DOTD) announced their preliminary results for the year to June. The share price fell sharply on the day and is now down over 25%, possibly prompted by negative comments on Stockopedia.

I won’t go into detail on the issues because this blog post would otherwise be a very long one. But I did attend the results presentation on the Investor Meet Company platform this morning when some of my questions, and others, were covered.

One question raised was about the reporting of “discontinued” revenue from the Comapi business. It was stated that this was definitely closed down completely by June this year so won’t appear in future. There was also concern that SMS business was impacting revenue and profits but it was stated that it was not cannibalising email revenue. But SMS business is at lower margins and there was clearly a spike last year in SMS business (if you are signed up for NHS services you will have realised that they are now tending to use that communication channel which I find quite annoying).

There was a good review of the competitive landscape and it seems there is good growth coming via partners with “connectors” such as Magento, Shopify, Big Commerce and MS Dynamics.

In summary my comment would be that I think this is still a fundamentally sound business which can grow some more, but I would prefer to see the accounts presented in a simpler way. However the share price had grown very rapidly in the last year and in my view was overvaluing the business. It’s now at a more realistic level.

The other company whose share price has taken a big knock is GB Group (GBG). Yesterday they announced a share placing at a price of 725p to raise money to enable them to acquire a similar US business. It looks to be a sensible acquisition. But the share price was at a discount of 17% on the market price and involves substantial dilution of existing shareholders.

Again I would suggest that this has reset the share price to a more realistic level. Retail investors may be able to participate via the Primary Bid platform.  

As I hold shares in both DotDigital and GB Group, these events have not done wonders for my portfolio valuations but I had been reducing my holding in these companies (top slicing) in recent months as the valuations did seem to be departing from reality. They are now back down to earth.

The Covid epidemic has certainly driven more digitisation of processes which both companies have benefited from but the valuations of such businesses have become strained in my view. Can the growth continue at the same rate in the next couple of years? Perhaps so but that is not certain.

Readers should of course form their own view on the valuations of these businesses and not rely on my comments. But they are both key players in the automation of marketing and financial services so are well placed for the future.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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The Death of Coal Mining and the Nuclear Alternative

Boris Johnson has said that the Glasgow climate deal is a “game-changing agreement” which sounds “the death knell for coal power”. Let us hope so. My father worked down a pit in Nottinghamshire in his early life and was all for replacing coal power stations by nuclear power. Coal mining is not just a great creator of pollution but is also positively dangerous for the miners.

China is one of the largest consumers and producers of coal and in 2019 there were 316 deaths of coal miners in that country. That was an improvement on previous years but it is still a horrific number.

Nuclear power is considered to be dangerous by some people but in reality it is remarkably safe. For example the Fukushima event in Japan in 2018 only directly caused the death of one person. For a very good analysis of the safety of various energy sources go here: https://ourworldindata.org/safest-sources-of-energy

One problem with nuclear power is that it tends to be produced in plants that have very high capital costs and take many years to build. They are also vulnerable to faults when in operation. This often results in very expensive costs in comparison with coal or gas. But that might be solved by the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) where Rolls-Royce (RR.) has a potential technology lead from their experience in building nuclear reactors to power submarines.

They have recently obtained more funding from the Government and from partners to develop this business – see the Rolls-Royce press release here:  https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/press-releases/2021/08-11-2021-rr-announces-funding-secured-for-small-modular-reactors.aspx

Will that enable Rolls-Royce to recover from the dire impacts of the Covid epidemic on its aero engine business? Perhaps but not for some years in the future I would estimate. Developing new technology and new production methods is always vulnerable to hitches of various kinds which tends to mean that it takes longer than expected.

There are of course alternatives to nuclear power such as wind power, hydroelectricity and solar. But wind power is intermittent thus requiring investment in big batteries to smooth the load and in the last year there was less wind that normally expected in the UK. This has impacted the results of companies such as The Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG) and Greencoat UK Wind (UKW).

Which technology will be the winner in solving the clean energy problem is not at all clear but I would bet that coal is definitely on the way out for electricity production although it might survive for use in steel manufacturing. UK coal fired power stations are scheduled to be closed down by 2024 and already the UK can go for many weeks without them being in operation.

Whether you accept the Government is right to aim for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or not, we must surely all welcome the replacement of coal power generation by other sources.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Alliance Trust Resets Dividend

An announcement this morning from Alliance Trust (ATST) says that the board has concluded that an increased dividend “will benefit existing shareholders and enhance the attractiveness of the Company’s shares”. They expect the overall annual dividend to increase by 32.5% over the 2020 dividend. The proposed increase will be well covered by distributable reserves and income it is suggested although no doubt some of the extra dividend cost will come from capital.

ATST had a reported yield of 1.43% last year according to the AIC which is the figure a lot of private investors look at when identifying good investments, when they should be looking at total return and overall performance. So far as the tax position of most private investors are concerned, turning capital growth into dividend income is a mistake as they will end up paying more tax. If they need more cash income they could simply sell some shares.

As with City of London Investment Trust I recently commented upon, and as very evident at their AGM, the emphasis on dividends paid by the trust, and growth in them, is apparently aimed at pleasing investors when investors are being fooled by the cash they see coming in when total return including capital growth is what they should really be paying attention to.

There are some interesting comments on Alliance Trust by Mark Northway in the latest ShareSoc Informer newsletter published today. He points out that the change to a “best ideas” portfolio approach managed by Willis Towers Watson since 2017 has not returned significantly above average performance after costs as anticipated. A huge amount of effort has been put in with little benefit he suggests. But perhaps that just shows how difficult it is to beat index benchmarks consistently particularly when the trust’s portfolio is so diversified. At least the trust’s performance is no worse than its benchmark as used to be the case before the revolution and appointment of a new manager.

As part of my “barbell” portfolio I am happy with the performance of Alliance Trust but I would have preferred them not to increase the dividend. I barely need to the cash as household expenditure is sharply down in the last year due to self-isolation from Covid. I’ll end up reinvesting the dividend cash after paying tax on it, when Alliance could do that for me tax free!   

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Two Unsatisfactory AGMs

This week I attended two Annual General Meetings – or at least attempted to do so. The first was of Ideagen (IDEA) an AIM company.

This was an “electronic” AGM with no physical attendance, held on the Lumiagm platform. I tried to log in with the Shareholder Reference Number given on my dividend certificates (I am on the share register) but it rejected it. Apparently the prefix needed to be ignored.

I contacted the support email address but by the time I got an answer the meeting was over – it seemed to last all of 5 minutes. They clearly should have provided clearer instructions. The company did send me a recording of the meeting but there seemed to be no shareholder questions which explains why the meeting was over in record time.

But the next day the votes cast at the meeting were reported and they received 63% of votes cast against the remuneration resolution with this comment added: “With respect to Resolution 4, the Company is aware that these votes against are in relation to the Company’s Long Term Incentive Plan (“LTIP”). The Company believes that the structure of the LTIP is in the best interests of all stakeholders and is fully aligned with shareholders’ interests”.

The directors would have been aware of the proxy counts before the meeting so it would have been helpful to have commented on this issue at the event. As it stands, a bland rebuttal of the obvious concerns of a large proportion of shareholders I do not find acceptable.

The second AGM I attended was that of City of London Investment Trust (CTY). I commented on this company when they published their Annual Report earlier this month. My view on the company has not changed from attending the AGM. Too much emphasis on maintaining the dividend record by investing in high dividend paying companies rather than looking at total return.

This was a hybrid AGM with attendees both present in person and electronically. I attended electronically via Zoom.

The initial words of the Chairman could not be heard and when it came to questions from the physically present attendees, he did not repeat the questions so I could not hear them – only his answers. So this was another unsatisfactory meeting in terms of electronic attendance.

Not all hybrid or electronic meetings are defective but a high proportion are in one way or another. Companies clearly have a lot to learn about how to run such meetings properly.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Two Unsatisfactory AGMs

This week I attended two Annual General Meetings – or at least attempted to do so. The first was of Ideagen (IDEA) an AIM company.

This was an “electronic” AGM with no physical attendance, held on the Lumiagm platform. I tried to log in with the Shareholder Reference Number given on my dividend certificates (I am on the share register) but it rejected it. Apparently the prefix needed to be ignored.

I contacted the support email address but by the time I got an answer the meeting was over – it seemed to last all of 5 minutes. They clearly should have provided clearer instructions. The company did send me a recording of the meeting but there seemed to be no shareholder questions which explains why the meeting was over in record time.

But the next day the votes cast at the meeting were reported and they received 63% of votes cast against the remuneration resolution with this comment added: “With respect to Resolution 4, the Company is aware that these votes against are in relation to the Company’s Long Term Incentive Plan (“LTIP”). The Company believes that the structure of the LTIP is in the best interests of all stakeholders and is fully aligned with shareholders’ interests”.

The directors would have been aware of the proxy counts before the meeting so it would have been helpful to have commented on this issue at the event. As it stands, a bland rebuttal of the obvious concerns of a large proportion of shareholders I do not find acceptable.

The second AGM I attended was that of City of London Investment Trust (CTY). I commented on this company when they published their Annual Report earlier this month. My view on the company has not changed from attending the AGM. Too much emphasis on maintaining the dividend record by investing in high dividend paying companies rather than looking at total return.

This was a hybrid AGM with attendees both present in person and electronically. I attended electronically via Zoom.

The initial words of the Chairman could not be heard and when it came to questions from the physically present attendees, he did not repeat the questions so I could not hear them – only his answers. So this was another unsatisfactory meeting in terms of electronic attendance.

Not all hybrid or electronic meetings are defective but a high proportion are in one way or another. Companies clearly have a lot to learn about how to run such meetings properly.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.