James Ashton: AGMs season can still put trouble on agenda


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The Independent Online

Like the first swallow of summer, Barclays’ shareholder meeting this week signified the beginning of the AGM season. But if signs of summer are upon us, what happened to this year’s shareholder spring?

By this time last year, the first big corporate scalp had been claimed. David Brennan announced his exit from AstraZeneca on 26 April, followed by Sly Bailey from the newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror a week later and Andrew Moss, the chief of insurance giant Aviva, five days after that.

So far, it’s all quiet on the Western Front. It is, of course, early. With all those March year-end companies, the AGM season stretches through until July. And just because bosses bore the brunt of shareholders’ ire last year, it doesn’t mean they will again. But I very much doubt that investors and executives have reached a happy accord.

Perhaps in anticipation of a row, companies get so skittish. A special mention should go to AstraZeneca for making my colleague Lucy Tobin so unwelcome at its AGM on Thursday. Maybe only when the shrinking drug maker has turned around its dolorous performance will it happily throw open its doors.