Investment trusts tell shareholders to not attend AGMs in light of coronavirus

Being legally required to hold an AGM, however, many are instead asking members to either vote by proxy or join via video conference call.

Funds and Investment Trusts March 26, 2020 by Tom Bailey

A number of investment trusts have asked shareholders to not attend upcoming annual general meetings (AGMs), in light of coronavirus.

Investment trusts are listed companies, meaning investors are shareholders and technically owners. As with all listed companies, this means investment trusts are legally required to hold an annual general meeting (AGM), in which shareholders are asked to vote on the trust’s policies and board members, among other things.

While largely procedural, these events help keep investment trusts accountable to their ultimate owners – the shareholders. However, with the outbreak of coronavirus and the government discouraging large gatherings, many investment trusts are asking share holders not to attend their upcoming meetings. Being legally required to hold an AGM, however, many are instead asking members to either vote by proxy or join via video conference call.

For example, Temple Bar, the popular value trust run by Alastair Mundy, has issued a statement saying public attendance of its AGM on 30 March 2020 will no longer be possible. Instead, the meeting will be conducted via video conference. However, there will be no portfolio manager presentation or live question and answer session, as is usually the case at AGMs.

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Likewise, Baillie Gifford’s Scottish Mortgage has noted that in light of the health risks and government advice against public gatherings it is encouraging shareholders not to attend its Extraordinary General Meeting on 27 March. Instead, it asks for all shareholders to submit proxy voting forms by no later than 2.00pm on 25 March.

The investment trust notes that anyone who does attempt to attend will be required to fill in a questionnaire detailing their personal health and recent travel history. Even so, they may still not be admitted to the EGM.

Scottish American investment trust, also managed by Baillie Gifford, as issued a similar notice to its shareholders for its upcoming AGM. The trust discourages attendance of the AGM and instead requests shareholders submit votes via proxy. Anyone attempting to attend will also be asked to fill in a questionnaire.  

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