Mar 11, 2020

HSBC warns of potential disruption to AGM from coronavirus

HSBC has become the first British company to warn investors about the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its annual meeting this year, with other listed groups looking at options if the government clamps down on mass gatherings. More than 40 per cent of annual investor meetings in the FTSE 100 will be held in April and May, according to law firm Linklaters, which warned these could face disruption if restrictions are brought in by the government to counter the rapid spread of coronavirus. Corporate advisers said other companies were also considering what to do ahead of a busy AGM season that could coincide with the peak of Covid-19. Lucy Fergusson, corporate partner at Linklaters, said: "AGMs will normally be able to go ahead, even if many shareholders choose or are forced to stay away, as the quorum requirement for the AGM to be legally binding is very low for most UK companies. And whatever happens, shareholders won't lose their right to vote as they can vote by proxy before the AGM takes place." Not all companies' bylaws specifically provide for holding a hybrid AGM and there are legal doubts about holding online-only meetings but this has not yet been tested.

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