7. Relations with shareholders
During the year, the company has continued to promote dialogue with its major institutional shareholders. All shareholders were again encouraged to attend the annual general meeting, which provides shareholders with the opportunity to ask questions of the board and chairmen of all the board committees. All resolutions were put to a poll at the annual general meeting in 2008. Voting at the meeting was conducted electronically, with the results being published on the Regulatory News Service and on the company’s website.
Alongside the facilities offered by the Company Secretary’s department, the company maintains a dedicated investor relations function which reports to the Director of Corporate Affairs. The investor relations team builds and maintains long-term relationships with institutional investors and analysts and, in partnership with our corporate and divisional management teams and within the scope of regulatory constraints, gives presentations on regional business outlooks and strives to ensure that these are understood across the global equity markets in subsequent one-to-one meetings with investors. Occasional business site visits are also arranged. Dialogue on socially responsible investment is handled by the Head of Sustainable Development in the corporate affairs department, who undertakes focused briefings with interested investors and stakeholders.
In addition to scheduled management-led programmes in which executives interact with investors and analysts, the Chairman has, independently, initiated formal contact with all shareholders (or their representatives) holding more than 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 non-operational 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 annual general meeting specifically to deal with issues arising from the annual report and notice of the annual general meeting. All non-executive directors of the company are invited to participate in this process. Institutional and shareholder comment on the annual report is conveyed to the board through the audit and remuneration committees and the Company Secretary.