Stockholders’ meetings move online

Published May 17, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


From the corporate side, every publicly-listed company holds online annual stockholders’ meeting where the majority owners and all of their top officers report to even the most humble of shareholders.

Usually a glitzy event held in the ballroom of top hotels and other venues, companies also make it worth the while of shareholders to attend by preparing food, drinks and even loot bags.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep social distance, mass gatherings like these are already prohibited and will continue to be frowned upon even when strict quarantine measures are eventually lifted.

This presents a dilemma for listed companies since, beyond the pomp and celebratory mood, annual stockholders’ meetings are actually required by law to be held every year so shareholders can be updated on what the company has achieved in the past year and to elect a new set of board directors for the next 12 months.

The most viable solution to this problem is to go digital — thanks to the internet and video conferencing software.

While most annual stockholders’ meetings are scheduled from April to June, many companies have decided to move these back by a few months, although top conglomerates such as the Ayala, Aboitiz and Gokongwei groups have led the way by holding the first online stockholders’ meetings in the country.

Ayala Land and Ayala Corporation were the first to test the digital waters, combining both live and pre-recorded speeches and reports. However, instead of responding to live questions from shareholders, questions were culled from those sent ahead by email with only a few answered live while the rest were promised responses via email.

Seeing how it worked for the Ayala, Aboitiz, and Gokongwei groups, most listed firms are now considering holding online ASMs even when quarantine measures have been lifted.

D&L Industries President Alvin D. Lao said they plan to go online even though the firm’s ASM has been moved from June to September because online ASMs are “easier to organize, cheaper to run, and better-managed.”