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Shareholder Calls For Gender Balance On Male-Dominated ATH Boards

Shareholder Calls For Gender Balance On Male-Dominated ATH Boards
ATH board members (from left) Ivan Fong, Tom Ricketts, Ajith Kodagoda, Arun Narsey, Umarji Musa and Taito Waqa during their AGM at Holiday-Innon August 23, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.
August 24
12:34 2018

shareholder has questioned Fiji’s leading telecom group why none of its top companies have female directors.

It came in a meeting in Suva yesterday.

Another major development at the meeting was the reduced dividend payout, down more than $6 million from 2017.   

Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Limited is the majority stakeholder in top companies like Vodafone Fiji and Telecom Fiji Limited.

It also has major operations in  Samoa, Vanuatu and other parts of the region.

At the Group’s 20th Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Marica Hallacy pushed for more gender diversity on the boards of ATH and its subsidiaries.

In response, group chief executive officer and company secretary Ivan Fong said: “I have no say in the way of appointments of directors – that goes back to the shareholders.

“It’s up to them to look at the constitution of the board and if they think it is fit and proper to have a gender balance, I think the group will have no objection.

“This of course subject, from my preference as management, that all appointments are based on merit and that the business and results of the company continue to go ahead and grow.”

Directors’ fees

The ATH board also got approval from shareholders to fix the directors’ fees at $90,000 for the year ending March 31, 2019.

One shareholder, however, had questions.

Subramani Bala asked why Vodafone Fiji regional chief executive office Pradeep Lal accepted a role on the board of Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC).

Mr Bala asked the ATH board if Mr Lal was receiving directors’ fees for both his roles.

Mr Lal, who was present at the meeting, said he was not receiving directors’ fees from his FSC role

Mr Fong said: “Quite often employees of the company, me included, are nominated or asked to be directors on boards of companies.

“Employees are given that consent if the role doesn’t conflict with any of the ATH’s business interests and whether they can make a positive contribution in some other entity without it affecting their job.”

Dividend decrease reason

Mr Fong attributed the decreased dividend payout to ATH’s growing investment portfolio.

He said: “We are doing quite a number of transactions in the region.

“Two years ago we announced a BlueSky transaction, which is a transaction of about US$79 million (FJ$167.02m) with an interest of 60 per cent.

“In Vanuatu we have completed the acquisition of Telecom Vanuatu for about US$30m (FJ$63.43m).

“Building networks and operations in these countries take a lot of resources, and this is one of the reasons the dividend has decreased.

“The company itself needs to have a certain amount of capital and financing that is required by banks and other lenders.”

Also on the meeting’s agenda was the re-appointment of Umarji Musa as the Group’s director. Mr Musa is also the chairman of Telecom Fiji Limited.

Shareholders also adopted ATH’s financial statements for the year ending March 31, 2018.

ATH has aslo decided to continue with its external auditor from last year, Blinder Dijker Otte (BDO), until the acquisition of BlueSky and TFL-FINTEL merger is completed.

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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