Shareholders group opposes Z's virtual meeting plan

Mike Bennetts, Z Energy CEO. Photo / File
Mike Bennetts, Z Energy CEO. Photo / File

Z Energy's decision to hold its annual meeting over the internet has drawn flak from the New Zealand Shareholders Association, which said the company was out of step with other listed companies and with what shareholders expected.

The association's new chief executive, Michael Midgley, said Z Energy had not surveyed investor opinion before making its decision while its own survey showed that less than 2 per cent wanted virtual-only meetings.

He said an "overwhelming majority" supported hybrid - physical and virtual - annual meetings to ensure everyone had the best opportunity to participate.

"Without a physical meeting, shareholders were concerned that they could no longer 'eyeball' directors, read their body language and would lose informal opportunities for discussion after the meeting," he said in a statement.

"This may not be an issue with Z performing well at present and probably explains the disappointing turnout last year" said Midgley, "but once the physical meeting is gone, it will be very difficult to get it reinstated if things are not going so well".

Many shareholders were concerned that virtual meetings would limit their ability to ask questions or that they could be censored, he said.

The association's survey also showed that 18 per cent of respondents who had logged into hybrid meetings reported issues with the technology - a level that it considered "completely unacceptable".

Spark had initially intended to follow the Z Energy model, but following further consideration of the information provided by the association had decided to continue with a hybrid meeting this year. "We believe that was the right decision and call on Z Energy to follow suit" Midgley said.

Z Energy last week confirmed that would be the first listed New Zealand company to hold a virtual-only annual general meeting this year.

The decision comes in the wake of its poor turn-out in 2016, when just 19 people turned up for the meetingat Wellington's Te Papa.

No date has been announced for the virtual meeting but it is likely to be held in June, earlier than its physical meeting which was in July last year.

Shareholders will be able to view the meeting over the internet and dial in and vote via a touchtone landline.

Debra Blackett, Z's corporate governance officer, said last week the company had hoped to leverage off technology to increase the number of shareholders participating in the company's annual meetings.

- NZ Herald

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