The Annual General Meeting (AGM) season is getting underway in many countries around the world for companies with December 31 year-ends. AGMs provide one of the few opportunities shareholders have to question the board, engage directly with management, and hear the views of other shareholders.

However, the outbreak of the Coronavirus is causing companies to rethink their arrangements for 2020 AGMs in light of potential bans on large gatherings, travel restrictions and the risk that venues selected for the meetings may cease to be available due to unexpected closure.

Where AGM notices have already been sent out, or are in the process of being dispatched, companies are urging shareholders to check their websites for AGM updates and recommending that shareholders submit their proxy votes on resolutions to be considered at the meeting as soon as possible, in case they are not able to attend the meeting in person. They are also making clear that if AGM meetings are held, they will not necessarily take place in the usual format. For example, meetings are likely to be shorter in duration as presentations by the chair and other members of the board are kept to a minimum, or replaced by webcasts.