The queensland-based mining company, New Hope Group, has “gone regional”, holding its annual general meeting in the NSW Hunter Valley on Thursday. But not everyone is happy.
- Shareholder advocate Stephen Mayne says the decision to not web stream the meeting was not in the interests of full transparency
- New Hope chief executive, Rob Bishop, says the move was deliberately intended to support the local community
- A climate-focused resolution has been voted down by 87 per cent, but shareholder activists still consider the vote a win
In a shift from the typical city setting usually associated with such gatherings, shareholders were invited to tour the company’s local coal mine, Bengalla, before attending the AGM in Muswellbrook.
The meeting, attended by about 50 people, was told the site visit did not go ahead as planned due to “agitator” activity in the vicinity.
Some shareholders questioned the decision to hold the AGM in a rural town without remote access for those who could not be there.
Shareholder advocate Stephen Mayne, who also owns shares in New Hope, said the decision was not in the interests of full transparency.
“It’s very unusual for a company such as New Hope with a $5-billion valuation and 15,000 shareholders to not offer an online AGM,” he said.
“It’s pretty standard practice now to do a live stream … allowing online questions during the meeting.
“When you’ve got differences of opinion, you should be able to have a discussion.”
But New Hope chief executive, Rob Bishop, said the move was deliberately intended to support the local community.
“Prior to COVID embracing the world, we had in-person AGMs,” he said.
“Now that that’s stopped, we were very keen to move back to an in-person AGM where we can interact with shareholders. We can have lunch with them afterwards and have a good chat.
“For us, that’s invaluable.”
When asked why that precluded streaming the proceedings, Mr Bishop said the thought was that it would encourage more people to attend the AGM in person.
“We could, but the board felt that it was important to have that interaction, and we felt that that would bring more people to the meeting,” he said.
Climate-focused resolution voted down
Six of the meeting’s eight resolutions were carried unanimously.
A resolution that requested the company disclose how its capital expenditure and coal operations would be managed “in a manner consistent with a scenario in which global energy emissions reach net zero by 2050” was defeated.
Just over 12 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of the resolution.
Despite this, shareholder activists still consider the vote a win, declaring it amounted to a 36 per cent increase on a similar resolution 12 months ago.
“This vote result is a considerable improvement on last year, showing a growing number of New Hope’s shareholders are prepared to demand the company stop wasting capital on coal projects that would be stranded under a net zero emissions by 2050 pathway,” Market Forces campaigner, Will van de Pol, said.
“Among New Hope’s remaining investor base, there remains a majority that have failed to take this critical opportunity to tackle mounting climate risk.”
Mr Bishop said the result “speaks to the general shareholder consensus view” of shareholders.
“The shareholders that have put that up are a very small percentage, 0.001 per cent of our shareholder base,” he said.
“Every right to them to put up those resolutions. We don’t have an issue on that.”
Strong performance despite challenges
Buoyed by robust coal prices, the company delivered a closing share price of $4.39 — an increase of 120 per cent on the 2021 Financial Year.
Labour shortages and wet weather resulted in 60,000 lost truck hours, amounting to a production decrease of four per cent.
Despite this, the company sold 8.8 million tonnes of coal, compared to 9.6 million tonnes the previous year, fetching an average price of $281.80, up more than $180 a tonne.
Mr Bishop said that had resulted in record cash generation.
“We finished the year just shy of $1 billion in our account,” he said.
“We were at $1.8 billion prior to the recent payment of the dividend.
“On all accounts, it’s been an exceptional year.”
In October, the company received approval to expand its New Acland operation in Queensland, 15 years after submitting the original application.
ABC News (AU)