This blog gives you the latest topical news plus some informal comments on them from ShareSoc’s directors and other contributors. These are the personal comments of the authors and not necessarily the considered views of ShareSoc. The writers may hold shares in the companies mentioned. You can add your own comments on the blog posts, but note that ShareSoc reserves the right to remove or edit comments where they are inappropriate or defamatory.

Diageo AGM and Scottish Independence Postscript

Yesterday I attended the Annual General Meeting of Diageo Plc. Being the day of the Scottish Independence vote, there were some questions on that issue for the board, but all the CEO said was that you can be assured we will fiercely fight for free trade, currency stability and no more tax and regulation. The Chairman said it was for the people of Scotland to decide, even though Diageo is headquartered in Scotland. You know the outcome by now and I guess at least our ShareSoc Chairman won’t have to get a new passport or choose his nationality.

The Diageo AGM was generally a disappointing meeting with the Chairman and CEO spouting lots of “management speak”. Shareholders were obviously unhappy with the performance of the company last year – as one shareholder said – “sales and profits down, and the share price down more than 10%”. He suggested it was like Tesco and the CEO had no chance of remaining unless it improves.

A full report will be on the ShareSoc Members Network as soon as possible.

One particular problem was that I turned up partly as a proxy holder for 230,000 shares on behalf of our fellow German Shareholder Association (DSW). But the registrars said they had not received the proxy appointment from Vidacos Nominees in time, so those shares were not voted.

This exact same problem happened to me at the National Grid AGM a few weeks ago. It seem likely that the nominee operators simply to do not submit the proxy forms in time and it’s yet another example of the problems created by the nominee system. It was disappointing to lose their votes against the remuneration scheme at this company, where bonuses can be as high as 500% of base salary. But this very high gearing did at least mean total remuneration was reduced last year.

Readers are reminded that we are holding a meeting to launch a campaign on the issue of nominee accounts and the difficulties shareholders have in exercising their rights on the 14th October – see www.sharesoc.org/campaigns/shareholder-rights-campaign/ for more details – all are welcome.

I hope investors are happy with the outcome of the Scottish Independence vote. The only downside might be that the pound seems to be rising again as a result – this directly impacts the profits of many UK companies who export a lot or have major overseas operations.

British Country Inns

Today another General Meeting I attended was that of British Country Inns 2 – an EGM to change their Articles prior to listing on Asset Match. It and the position of the other associated EIS companies was described in our last newsletter. The new Articles contain a provision that enable the directors to refuse to register any share transfer at their absolute discretion, which I consider positively dangerous. But shareholders voted for it by a large majority. We shall see how this plays out in future. A fuller report will be put on the ShareSoc Members Network.

Roger Lawson

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