A model shareholder

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 1995, 12:00am

DETAILED discussions of a company's affairs are not what annual general meetings are normally about in the territory.

A quick run through the agenda, unanimous agreement on all proposals, and it's off for dim sum for shareholders - if any turn up - and shark's fin for directors.

The soup was getting a bit cold yesterday for directors of Playmate Properties and Playmate Toys.

A shareholder actually took the aims of the AGM seriously and turned up to question the directors on their policies.

Observers say the board was far from amused, but this individual should be seen as an inspiration to other shareholders in Hong Kong - proxy or not.

The questions did not get much in the way of answers, and whatever case she was intending to make may not have been as substantial as she obviously thought, for the directors had strong rebuttals, but it was the principle for which she stood up that should be applauded.

The directors should perhaps consider themselves lucky: not among her questions was the purpose of the buy-backs of reasonably chunky lines of stock in Playmates Properties by Playmates Toys.

Directors too often count on shareholders being unseen, and heard less, in Hong Kong and yesterday's assaults on the complacency of boardrooms shows that the flame of corporate governance still burns.

If Playmates' directors felt miffed about the extra half hour which both board meetings carried on, they should spare a thought for directors of UK giant British Gas who, on May 31, they will face shareholders for the first time since fat pay and option deals sparked outrage among shareholders, consumers, politicians and the public.

Some seriously co-ordinated opposition to the boardroom pay policy is being organised, and directors will have to defend themselves under TV camera lights as well as in front of masses of shareholders.

The thought would make many Hong Kong directors shudder.