Hell hath no fury like a shareholder scorned. And it was no different at Microsoft shareholder AGM yesterday, where there was plenty heckling and shouting amid investor fury. The meeting was “speedy, button-downed affair” according to Microsoft community publication Redmondmag.com, but had plenty hairy moments for Bill Gates and his team.
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Among the issues voted on was the election of Redmond based giant’s board members – all nine board nominees approved by 92% majority – and a one-year consideration period on pay increases for Microsoft executives.
The company had argued for a “say on pay” assessment period every three years.
The company auditors Deloitte & Touche were also approved, although a shareholder proposal to create a new board committee on environmental sustainability was rejected at the vote.
However, despite some of the broader agreements, there was several “edgy” moments in the proceeding Q&A session, where widespread ire to be found among investors fed up of the fast tracked meeting, who wanted to put more questions to Chairman Bill Gates, CEO Steve Ballmer and Co.
“Why can’t they answer questions for another hour?” said one investor, from Cashmere, Washington, who drove for over two-hours to make the Microsoft meeting, according to Reuters. “We drove through the snow to get here.”
“Give that extra half hour and show us the self-confidence that other management teams show at their annual meeting,” another demanded.
Another angry attendee asked why the company did not treat its shareholders as owners.
Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Peter Klein, responded that Microsoft dividends were increased 25 percent this year and redistributed $170 billion over the last 10 years to its shareholders.
Microsoft’s static share price and its $57bn cash reserves, and the possible break up of the giant were also subjects of discussion, which saw Bill Gates go on the defence, among his only utterances through the whole session.
Microsoft is “stronger today than it has ever been,” he declared.
“You want to retain enough (cash) so the company has the strength to be able to take big risks even in the face of some economic uncertainty.”
“I’ve always been a big believer in having a very strong balance sheet for the company.”
“Last year, we delivered record financial performance by growing revenue 12 percent to nearly $70 billion. Thanks to continued discipline and focus on managing costs and expenses, operating income grew at an even higher rate of 13 percent to over $27 billion,” CEO Steve Ballmer said.
On the Windows 8 future, here is what Ballmer had to say:
“We are in the Windows era,” Ballmer said. “We were, we are and we always will be. That’s kind of what we get paid to do. We’ve got broad Windows initiatives driving Windows down to the phone with Windows 8.”
“You’ll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows from tablets, small, large, pens, smaller, bigger, room-size displays. We are in an era in which the range of smart devices is continuing to expand. That’s a fantastic thing for Microsoft. That is a real opportunity. That is an opportunity that we will pursue by leveraging and sharing and driving Windows in new ways.”
They also defeated a shareholder initiative that proposed making environmental considerations part of the board’s business agenda.
There was just a “smattering of applause” from the 450 plus voters in attendance, when the meeting wrapped up according to Reuters.
However, despite all the ranting, shareholders are not willing to part with their shares in a hurry.
Microsoft shares closed yesterday at $26.74 – a rise of 0.68%.