AGM SEASON – WHAT WE CAN EXPECT

AGM SEASON – WHAT WE CAN EXPECT

With the global pandemic impacting the last two Annual General Meeting (AGM) seasons, this year marks the first since 2019 with no lockdown restrictions. So, as the conversation moves away from COVID-19, what can we expect in the upcoming AGM season?

HYBRID MEETINGS ARE HERE TO STAY

We expect to see a rise in AGMs being held in a hybrid format as companies and investors reap the benefits of having greater flexibility.

In 2021, temporary changes to the Corporations Act 2001 allowed companies to host AGMs virtually or in a hybrid format (where a physical meeting and a live webcast are simultaneously held).

These changes have since been made permanent, meaning companies can provide general meeting-related documents electronically and host hybrid or fully virtual AGMs.

However, in order to host a wholly virtual general meeting, a company will first need to amend its constitution, which requires 75 per cent shareholder approval.

The hybrid format has become best practice. It strikes a balance between allowing shareholders to attend in person – and front a Board face to face – and to attend virtually if they aren’t able to make the physical meeting. The key is choosing the right technology partner to ensure a smooth and seamless AGM.

Whichever format you choose, it is important stakeholders have the opportunity to fully participate, including an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

A GREATER FOCUS ON PROFITABILITY

Gone are the questions about COVID-19’s impact on company operations.

Investors are now looking at how organisations are managing their increasing cost base in a high-inflation environment and how companies are passing on rising costs to customers to maintain margins.

Investors are looking for robust business models, durable cash flow, good-quality accounts and an experienced board and management team that is executing well.

The “growth at all costs” mentality has shifted to “sustainable growth” as investors look for assurances of the safety of their investment.

Clear communication on cash flow and the use of company funds will be key this season.

MORE SHAREHOLDER ACTIVISM

If international examples are anything to go by, shareholder agitation will be another upcoming key feature. And while the instances of protesters violently disrupting meetings are not all that common for ASX-listed companies, boards should prepare for less public examples of shareholder activism locally.

It’s now a given that investors (institutional and retail), will challenge companies not just on how to maximise profits, but how to make money ethically.

Be warned: Investors are much more sophisticated in identifying companies that are using sustainability as a marketing mechanism – the old “greenwashing” – as opposed to those companies looking for a solid roadmap towards net zero by 2050.

While the traditional battleground for shareholder activism has been climate change, activists are now focusing on wider social and workplace issues such as diversity and inclusion. And they want to see real progress on how boards are delivering in this space.

If you are looking for support for your AGM, our dedicated team of Investor Relations professionals are trusted by small and large ASX-listed companies to build enduring value for companies, shareholders and stakeholders. To speak with one of our investor relations consultants, get in touch at IR@canningscomms.com.au