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Cole: Fiji Cooperative Dairy’s AGM was democratic and fair

Annual General Meetings can be very hectic and sometimes entertaining for some companies. Why?  Because you do not know what reactions to expect from the shareholders. For the Fiji Cooperative
21 Dec 2017 13:01
Cole: Fiji Cooperative Dairy’s AGM was democratic and fair

Annual General Meetings can be very hectic and sometimes entertaining for some companies.

Why?  Because you do not know what reactions to expect from the shareholders.

For the Fiji Cooperative Dairy Company Limited (FCDCL), this was not something foreign.

The company held their AGM on Monday which was an opportunity that some of the shareholders used to raise their concerns over the company’s performance.

One of the shareholders, Vijendra Prakash, and a few others spoke with disappointment over the results of the meeting.

According to him, there were two motions put forward for a vote.

As per the company’s Articles of Association, the shareholders can vote for the motion through a show of hands or a ballot.

The motion:

Rejection of the current financial statement.

To change the requirement of a non-shareholder to become a shareholder i.e. reduction of butter fat requirement from 368kg to 260kg.

Mr Prakash explained that he was disappointed because the election was not done through a show of hands but rather, a secret ballot poll.

Had the voting process been done through a show of hands, Mr Prakash said “we could have won that”.

The reason behind the motion:

A few other shareholders who shared the same sentiments as Mr Prakash said their reason for moving the motion is because they wanted the 90 non-shareholders to become shareholders.

“The non-shareholders are supplying milk to FCDCL.

“They are doing everything that a shareholder is doing, but when dividends are given, FCDCL is not giving them a single cent of dividend.

“I put up a motion that these people should be recognised because the butter fat criteria that was made 40 years ago cannot be applied today.

“It has to come down.

“Every time there is a show of hands but what they did on Monday, they tried to put that in the same ballot paper for that motion to be voted in which the election was taking,” said Mr Prakash.

Mr Prakash added that the criterion for the non-shareholders to become shareholders is very tough for them.

40 years ago, when the criteria was formed, he said farmers were able to produce that amount because of the large amount of available land.

However, these days, farmers cannot operate in such a large amount of land.

He said dairy farmers only operate in five to ten acres of land.

Another stakeholder, Koji Ramasima, said the voting process had confused the shareholders.

“The election was not conducted in a proper and fair way,” said Mr Ramasima.

Response:

“Most of those issues were put to a vote with all the other shareholders and majority of the other shareholders did not agree with him.

“And therefore his motion was lost.

“That is what democracy is all about.

“He [Mr Prakash] has an opinion and he raised his point and we put it to a formal vote.

“The vote was counted and they lost.

“What else can I do?” said FCDCL chairman Simon Cole.

He said the vote was done in a democratic way and the lawyers from Neel Shivam were at the meeting to ensure that it was done 100 per cent properly.

“His opinion was put and he had more than enough opportunity to talk. He put his point very strongly but the votes went against him.

“That is the whole point of an AGM,” he added.

He said the result of the vote reflected the fact that majority of the shareholders of the company do not want to change the requirement.

As for the issue regarding the rejection of the financial statement, Mr Cole said the accounts are audited and the company is making a profit which is passed to the farmers.

“It is an audited account by a professional set of auditors and we continue to make profit,” he said.

“We continue to give all profit to the farmers who are not making money out of milk production.

“We are trying desperately to give them cash.”

One of the company’s major shareholders, Kashmir Singh, said that the Articles of Association stated that no public company can buy shares from the company.

He said the poll vote had given the shareholders an opportunity to make a proper decision and this did not contradict the Articles of the Association.

He further added that most of the small farmers often make noise during meetings.

At an AGM in 1997, the meeting was called off because of the screaming and shouting, he said.

Feedback:  monica.aguilar@fijisun.com.fj



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