Relations with shareholders
During the year the company has continued to promote dialogue with its major institutional shareholders. It encouraged all shareholders to attend the AGM and paid considerable care and attention to ensuring that the 2004 AGM was once again an informative, productive and positive experience. The company considers the AGM key in providing shareholders with the opportunity to ask questions of the board and chairmen of all the board committees. All resolutions were put to a poll in 2004 and the voting was conducted electronically. The results were published on the Regulatory News Service, the company website, and communicated directly to the 20 largest shareholders after the meeting.
Alongside the facilities offered by the company secretary's department, the company maintains a dedicated investor relations function. Reporting to the director of corporate affairs, the investor relations team builds and maintains long-term relationships with institutional investors and analysts on the basis of fundamental business value driver analysis. In partnership with our corporate and divisional management teams and within the scope of regulatory constraints, investor relations gives presentations on regional business outlooks and strives to propagate understanding thereof across the global equity markets in subsequent one-on-one meetings with investors. Occasional business site visits are also arranged. Dialogue on socially responsible investment (SRI) is handled by the head of corporate accountability, in the corporate affairs department, who undertakes focused briefings with interested investors and stakeholders.
In addition to scheduled management-led programmes in which operating executives interact with investors and analysts, the chairman has, independently, initiated formal contact with all shareholders (or their representatives) holding in excess of 1% of the issued share capital of the company. The purpose of this contact is to enable the chairman to address any queries shareholders may have regarding the governance of the company or nonoperational aspects of company strategy. It is also, more broadly, designed to give the board a greater awareness of shareholder concerns. Alongside the chairman the senior independent director is also available to discuss issues with shareholders and views expressed will be communicated by the chairman to the board. As part of this initiative, the chairman offers to meet with significant shareholders in the month before the AGM specifically to deal with issues arising from the annual report and notice of AGM. All non-executive directors of the company have been invited to participate in this process. Comment on the annual report is conveyed through the audit and remuneration committees to the board.
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