JSE debuts virtual AGMs for shareholder engagements

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The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) has partnered with The Meeting Specialist (TMS) to launch the first virtual annual general meetings (AGMs) in SA, to enable companies on the bourse to engage with shareholders while the country is faced with tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after the JSE earlier this month said it is putting in place business continuity plans following the announcement of a countrywide lockdown to limit the spreading of the coronavirus.

The JSE, as noted by president Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on 23 March, is an essential service providing critical market infrastructure and maintaining economic momentum.

In a statement, the stock exchange says the launch of the virtual AGM platform comes at a time when business continuity is paramount to ensuring the running of SA’s economy.

It notes the platform caters for virtual AGMs and electronic voting, and also allows participants to connect from any location in the world using smart devices.

When conducting the AGM, the TMS will ensure a concise record of all attendees, secure auditing and provide technical support.

Ursula du Plooy, head of issuer relations and company services at the JSE, says: “We find ourselves in unprecedented times and that has encouraged businesses to be agile and innovative in their approach.”

“Our listed companies still need to engage with their shareholders and hold AGMs. Finding enabling solutions for our clients is a key focus for us and our ‘new normal’ has led us to introducing this new offering, proof that inclusivity and sustainable ways of working is achievable,” says Valdene Reddy, director of JSE Capital Markets.

The bourse says the cost-effective virtual AGMs are aligned with the JSE implementing business continuity measures during this period when physical meetings are not possible, and will also accommodate as many participants as possible while allowing screen-sharing.

It adds this virtual offering accommodates both participants who are connecting electronically and those attending the AGM physically.

The JSE says it will continue to offer this service after the COVID-19 crisis, as it is a great platform for engaging with stakeholders.

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed on public gatherings, the upcoming general meeting for Alexander Forbes shareholders has been moved to the virtual meeting platform facilitated by the JSE and TMS, which provides electronic engagement including voting enabled by an offshore service provider, says the stock exchange.

It will be the first fully remote and Web-based shareholder meeting of its kind in South Africa, it notes.

“While we believe that virtual meetings will in due course become widely accepted, or at least become a routine adjunct to conventional meetings as this is where the future of doing business is heading to, the immediate availability of this service is particularly relevant in today's volatile economic climate,” says Carina Wessels, executive of governance, legal and compliance at Alexander Forbes.

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