Marconi: ‘It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks’

Here is a selection of some of the comments from the floor – and the platform:

‘They’re killing off the expertise of the employees. It’s the board that should go.’ – MSF union official Roger Lyons before the AGM

‘The circumstances have changed in our markets and it was felt that George [Simpson] had more expertise to deal with these circumstances [than chief executive-elect John Mayo]. George communicated this to John, and John resigned.’ – Chairman Sir Roger Hurn on John Mayo’s abrupt departure.

‘We do not anticipate any acquisitions.’ – Hurn’s statement that the buying binge is over, which drew a round of applause from shareholders.

‘It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks.’ – Lord [George] Simpson’s opening remarks.

‘We’re going to be a great company in the long term.’ – Simpson

‘As John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run we are all dead.”’ – Aggrieved – and aged – private shareholder.

‘The FDs of some of the telecom operators felt that they could not justify placing more orders [for Marconi equipment].’ – Simpson.

‘It’s, er?’ – FD Steve Hare, trying to work out what the year-end gearing was.

‘Sixty-nine point six percent!’ – a shareholder who worked it out more quickly than Hare.

‘As a physician, I know that when people get indigestion they usually blame last week’s carrots.’ – Completely incomprehensible comment from a private investor.

‘It’s a great shame we had to lose John Mayo. I can see no good reason for it.’ – A more lucid comment from the same shareholder.

‘Within a year you’re going to need John Mayo – or someone with his qualities. I feel quite sad about it. I bought my shares when I heard that he was joining this company.’ – Another shareholder.

‘The company has a very high level of intellectual capital in our product pipeline.’ – FD Hare.

‘The first bit of news would have been interpreted as good news. The second bit of news would have been interpreted as bad news – and that would have been a false market.’ – Sir Roger Hurn on why the shares had to be suspended between the morning announcement of a major disposal and the evening announcement of a profit warning.

‘You have to judge us over the business cycle, not at one moment in time.’ – Simpson.

‘You say that the company must be judged over the business cycle. I would like to ask whether that means we will not be voting on the resolution that allows share options to vest after one year.’ – Representative from corporate governance action group, PIRC.

‘I think the person who set the [Marconi] share price at £12.75 had rocks in his head. I think the person who set the share price at a pound also had rocks in his head. I think we’re correctly valued somewhere in between.’ – Simpson.

‘If you had prepared the City four months ago as other telecom companies were doing, the shares would not be at £1 today.’ – Shareholder who disputed the board’s claim that they saw no need for a profit warning until 4 July.

‘I understand why you are upset. I understand why everyone is upset. But we are the people who are trying to put it right.’ – Hurn, on rejecting calls for the whole board to resign.

‘All our competitors offer welcome packages of share options.’ – Hurn, defending a resolution relating to a new option scheme for senior managers; the resolution was passed on a vote of 80% for, 20% against.

‘Isn’t it a myth that share options work to incentivise people? Otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess.’ – Private shareholder.

‘I think you have made a very good point but the problem is all our competitors do it.’ – Hurn’s reply.

‘I’m asking for a statement of confidence [in the board] from the floor.’ – An optimistic shareholder, whose comments attracted only silence, no applause

  • Andrew Sawers is editor of Financial Director magazine.


Security tight at Marconi agm

Simpson stays on for Marconi review

Mayo fails to show for the big day

Marconi FD faces US court action

Marconi directors buy up stock

Mayo buys shares before exit

Marconi man loses £200,000

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