We’ve written in the past about the some companies see quite sharp shifts in voting turnout. While Covid-19 has wreaked havoc with AGMs in general attention has understandably been elsewhere. But we’re still seeing some cranky voting results. Take the Lookers PLC meeting this week. Turnout at Monday’s meeting was not far short of 63%. But in 2019 it was 79%, meaning turnout fell by a fifth. So substantially less shareholders were motivated to vote despite major board changes, a delay to the publication of accounts and the identification of ’potentially fraudulent transactions’ in one division. Perhaps it’s because investors are waiting for the secondRead More →

It is not immediately obvious how to respond when you have just blown up not one but two ancient Aboriginal sites dating back 46,000 years, but if you are mining giant Rio Tinto, simply saying sorry is deemed sufficient. Having destroyed the ancient rock shelters in Western Australia, Rio Tinto issued an apology and said it was urgently reviewing plans for other sites in the area.Since this is shutting the stable door after the horse has exploded, Rio Tinto’s apology will likely hold little sway with the devastated Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people who claim the mining company disregarded their concerns for theRead More →

Supermarkets have been the Covid-19 success story enjoying surges in sales of as much as 50% as millions of shoppers filled their cupboards with pasta and bulk bought toilet roll. At the same time, food retailers have enjoyed a business rates holiday saving them millions of pounds in outgoings. What then to do with all this surplus cash? Morrisons’ solution is to give chief executive David Potts and chief operating officer Trevor Strain a 24% pension contribution. However, this might lead them into a rather awkward confrontation with shareholders since such a move would be in direct opposition to the 2018 corporate governance code whichRead More →

If a company has just raised capital from investors by placing, it strikes us that the board must have thought that the company needed capital and the best route to raising it was via investors. We also believe that if the company has just raised capital from shareholders this means that the board cannot think that this is the time to for it to be distributing capital to shareholders. That might sound rather obvious, but if you look at recent company behaviour, and authorities sought from shareholders at AGMs, you get a rather mixed message. For example, on Friday 17 April Foxtons announced it hadRead More →

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day, a date to remember workers who have been killed, disabled, injured, or made unwell by their work. In 2020, it’s a date that has even greater significance. Sadly, many healthcare workers have lost their lives to Covid-19 as they seek to protect us from the virus. Workers in other sectors, who don’t have the option of working from home, have also been hard hit: transport, food processing, retail and so on. Many of these workers were modestly paid. The least we can do is take a minute to remember them. Often the ESG world has seemed to overlook theRead More →

With so many businesses fighting for survival during the Covid-19 pandemic, it looks like authorities are already taking a more relaxed view to mergers and acquisitions. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally approved Amazon’s significant investment in food delivery company Deliveroo, despite concerns at the end of last year that such activity could, according to The Guardian, limit competition in the takeaway and ultra-fast grocery delivery markets. It feared that customers, restaurants and grocers could face higher prices and lower-quality services because of the deal. The CMA says the risk of Deliveroo going under required a rethink of the official position, and sinceRead More →

Plans to buy billions of dollars’ worth of corporate bonds must not exclude coal companies, the world’s largest asset manager may be told. BlackRock, which has USD7trn assets under management, has been tasked by the US government to lead a USD454bn purchase of company bonds. However, since the asset manager’s own policy is to avoid actively investing in companies with 25% of revenue derived from coal power, some right-wing US politicians are anxious that the fossil fuel industry is not left out of the support programme. In a letter to the Federal Reserve, 17 Republican politicians demand the relief programme, which aims to shore upRead More →

There’s an old saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Faced with impending demise we are happy to desperately grasp for anything that might prolong our existence. The Covid-19 outbreak should perhaps create a new truism: there is no shareholder primacy in a crisis. In common with the financial crisis, current economic disruption reminds us that the normal operating model for capitalism might work tolerably in normal times, but is quickly superseded when real pressure is exerted. Back in the distant past of last month shareholders would have been looking forward to dividends from many companies, and buybacks from others. That future isRead More →

It’s increasingly clear that the Covid-19 crisis is going to have significant and sustained impact on economies around the world. Tens of thousands of people will die. Millions of people may lose their jobs. There is no ‘upside’ to any of this, but there is plenty of downside risk for those least able to shoulder it. As we have written previously, this global catastrophe is revealing just how much of that risk some of the lowest paid workers in our societies are exposed to. Delivery drivers on temporary contracts can’t work from home, and won’t self-isolate if they have no sick pay. Workers in theRead More →

If bankers’ bonuses became the symbol of an economic system gone astray during the financial crisis, share buybacks might become the equivalent during the Covid-19 outbreak. A range of commentators have criticised companies that have spent money on buybacks, leaving themselves financially vulnerable, and in some cases dependent on state support. You would think buybacks would have dried up weeks ago, but it doesn’t seem everyone has got the message. Take Frasers Plc, formerly Sports Direct. On 20th March it released an RNS stating that it was monitoring the affect of the Covid-19 outbreak closely. It warned: ’the Board expects that COVID-19 will cause significantRead More →