A third of the nation’s listed companies held their annual shareholders meetings on the peak day Thursday, but the ratio was the lowest ever amid government calls to spread the gatherings apart to promote greater investor participation.
Companies are also facing higher pressure to better communicate with shareholders because asset management firms have started scrutinizing proposals and voting more closely to protect their investors’ interests.
A total of 696 — or 29.6 percent — of firms whose business years ended in March hosted the meetings on Thursday, down from 32.2 percent from last year, according to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
The peak occurred in 1995 when 96.2 percent of all listed firms held the meetings at a time when companies would deliberately stack them to lessen the risk of corporate racketeers showing up to disrupt the proceedings.
The government and the Tokyo Stock Exchange have pushed for improved corporate governance, including promoting dialogue between companies and investors, to attract foreign investors to the nation’s equity markets.
Amid such calls, companies are increasingly facing pressure to do away with for-show meetings, where submitted proposals are approved without serious debate.
An investor with Fujifilm Holdings Corp., where improper accounting practices at subsidiaries in Australia and New Zealand recently came to light, said he hoped the company “could rebound” and prop up the share price.
Another Fujifilm shareholder welcomed the idea of spreading the meetings out.
“I have various kinds of stocks. I want to hear fresh views from the executives at the venues,” he said.
At oil distributor Idemitsu Kosan Co.’s meeting on Thursday, shareholders approved the appointment of CEO Takashi Tsukioka and 11 other people to the board of directors despite opposition from the founding family.
The founding family of the nation’s No. 2 oil refiner had expressed opposition to the appointments to protest Tsukioka’s plan to merge with the industry’s No. 4 refiner, Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K.
The merger was originally planned to take place in April but was postponed. It is believed the founding family holds a 33.92 percent stake with voting rights in the company — enough to stop the deal.
A Idemitsu Kosan shareholder who attended the meeting said, “I am worried because confusion is likely to continue at the company, but it is good that I can attend other shareholders meetings.”