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.
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