GILES RAFFERTY, Corporate Communications and Media Advisor
2019 is bookended by environmental challenges. The year began with massive fish mortalities in the Murray Darling and is ending with a devastating, early bushfire season that has impacted every state in the country. In between, on the global stage, climate activist Greta Thunberg made an impassioned speech at the UN calling for urgent action on climate change.
2019 is also the year when the ASX’s Corporate Governance Council updated its principals and recommendations, which included an explicit reference under recommendation 7.4 to assessing a company’s exposure to Climate Change risks and reporting on them using the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures guidelines.
Politics continues to surprise
In Australian politics it was a year of upsets. First the Gladys Berejiklian led Liberal-National Coalition government won the New South Wales State election and then the Scott Morrison led Liberal-National Coalition won the Australian Federal election. But the Liberal-National’s did not have it all their own way, becoming the first Australian federal government to lose a vote on its own legislation in 78 years.
Internationally, on-going civil unrest in Hong Kong has dominated headlines while Brexit in Europe seems as intractable as ever and has resulted in the current general election in the UK. In the USA, President Trump may face impeachment following hearings to determine if he sought help from the Ukraine to discredit a political rival.
Royal Commissions still a feature
February saw the publication of the final report by the Banking Royal Commission, containing 76 recommendations. The fallout for the banks has been something akin to a slow motion train wreck, culminating in recent weeks with the revelation that Westpac has been at the centre of a money laundering scandal. In October, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its interim report, titled “A Shocking Tale of Neglect”, highlighting the need for significant improvements in that sector.
While in other news Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to 6 years in prison for the sexual abuse of two choirboys, while actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.9 million damages for defamation, reported to be the largest defamation payout to a single person in Australia.
The monthly First Advisers blog has covered many topics over the course of 2019, ranging from tips to make investor days a success through to what changing governance recommendations mean and the role of corporate purpose in de-risking a business.
Giving investors what they want
As we enter December our two part The Do’s and Don’ts of Investor Days blogs in the March First Edition newsletter were the most accessed. Part 1 covered the reasons why Investor Days matter, with tips around the planning and logistics that support them. Part 2 focused on making sure an Investor Day clearly presents how a company creates value for shareholders, with tips on putting together presentations, giving context and delivering the kind of content an investor audience wants.
Share Purchase Plan increases a win-win.
Late in August, in a surprise announcement, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), doubled the amount that retail investors can contribute to Share Purchase Plans. It went from $15,000 to $30,000. The intention is for the increase in the purchase plan limit to help ‘mum and dad’ investors participate in discounted fundraisings and support the efficient functioning of capital markets. In our ‘ASIC Ups Share Purchase Plan limits’ newsletter article we looked at the benefits of this change and what it meant for the traditional rights issue.
Roadshows are a two-way street
Our ‘Are you Roadshow Ready?’ blog also got a lot of attention. In it we looked at how a roadshow is not just about presenting compliant information to a company’s shareholders but is also a great opportunity for a company to benchmark against their peers and get feedback on how they are communicating. The blog also listed the 5 things every CEO and IRO should know before they meet with an investor.
What to do with Proxy Advisors
In June, as part of advanced preparation for the current AGM season, we spoke to the key Proxy Advisory firms; ISS Australia, CGI Glass Lewis, Ownership Matters and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) in our Time for Proxy Advisors blog. ISS Australia, CGI Glass Lewis and ACSI specifically called out ESG reporting and action on climate change as important areas of focus, while Ownership Matters wanted to see poor performing directors being moved on.
The ASX sharpens its teeth
December is the month when a range of changes to the ASX listing rules come in to force, so it is no surprise to see our ASX Tightens Listing Rules blog in the top 5 articles of the year. Amongst the changes are a reduction in the time for notifying the ASX ahead of a voluntary escrow period closure; a need for listed entities to disclose more details of underwriting agreements during capital raises, and LICs and LITs now have to disclose their monthly Net Tangible Assets backing figure as soon as possible. It is also now easier for the ASX to delist non-compliant companies and to name and shame those that break listing rules.
With so much changing, particularly the updating of listing rules, there is much to think upon over the festive period but, alongside that, we wish you a merry Christmas and hope you find time to relax and recharge.