Access Kenya (AK) held its first AGM since listing on the Nairobi stock exchange (NSE). Here in alphabetical order is a brief recap.
Most of the questions were answered by Chairman Michael Somen and Executive director David Somen
Accounts: there were two balance sheets and P&L’s in the accounts which caused some confusion, but it was explained that one set was audited while the other was included to guide shareholders on the position of the company taking into account recent consolidations (Openview was acquired).
Blogger moment; as I was finishing my lunch, executive director David Somen was greeting shareholders and charring so I asked him about the company’s prospects: He said it's a good for investors and that AK was the second best performing share on the NSE after Equity Bank. On acquisitions he added that Kenya was not easy as most of the ISP’s of significance were not local entities, so they may look regionally for growth.
Collapsed brokers: two shareholders raised the matter of shares being sold without owners consent at different times - but each time, the chairman deferred them since they did not relate to AK shares
Computing industry one shareholder complained that the AK report was scanty on the industry (computing, ISP, technology etc.) and that the company should in future incorporate a management report on their performance in the industry. The chairman said that would be done.
Directors’ fees: while one shareholder considered it quite large, directors replied that they had actually reduced the fees 20 million from 50 million shillings before to be in line with other listed companies.
Dividend one shareholder complained that it was not enough and the company had undertaken too many corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, diluting the dividend. The question got a lot of applause and the Chairman said they would take that into consideration in future (heavy CSR was also an issue at Standard Chartered AGM a few years ago). Another shareholder noted a dividend current liability amount, which the directors indicated was a payment owed to the directors of the company they acquired after the year end (Openview?)
Increase share capital: from 250 million to 500 million this would give the company room to maneuver in terms of acquisitions, bonus, share splits. In answer to another shareholder, D. Somen clarified the CMA/NSE approval was not required to increase the share sin a company, but only at the time of listing
Acquire companies: up to 200 million shillings. Directors clarified that the companies falling under this clause were rather small, none larger than 5% of AK’s worth, and it would not be prudent to call an EGM (costing 1 million to 3 million shillings and several weeks time) each time this happened. Following other questions about due diligence, target companies and costs, the directors assured shareholders that all decisions would be made with a view to maximizing shareholder value and they would inform shareholders fully about acquisitions. The increased share capital would enable them to take on new shareholders whose companies they acquired. They have talked to several, but not ready to sign any deals yet
ESOP; vote to allocate new shares (about 1.35%) to the employee share ownership plans (ESOP). directors explained that it would enable them to maintain their unparalleled staff retention in the industry and that all 250 employees were shareholders which improved their commitment to the company. D. Somen explained a bit about the scheme which options were exercised over several years and ensured employees stayed on to reap the maximum from AK. This week the Nation Media Group announce plans to create an ESOP – that would be about the 3rd largest shareholder in the company, its time more oversight was given to the professional investment management of ESOP’s
Goodies: tote bag with cap, notepad and access Kenya pen. Lunch box from the Stanley hotel (beef sandwich, apple, orange, piece of chicken, Keringet bottle, soda)
Post election violence directors reiterated that they did not expected the early 2008 events to have an impact on the company’s outlook for the year which the anticipated to be 50% - 60% growth
Venue: was the Nairobi Arboretum and I heard many shareholders complain about its (i) inaccessibility – not public transport/or shuttle organized by company (ii) no directions - once they found the ‘park’, it was vast forest with no indication as to which corner the event was being held
Verdict: apart from the location, was a nice first outing for a newly listed company. It pays to have a strong chairman, able company secretary (Fiona Fox who is leaving the company after the AGM) and directors who can readily and confidently answer questions put to them by shareholders – 70% of which are mundane and/or repeated at every other AGM.