Telstra shareholders have hit out at the company’s buyback scheme at its annual general meeting held in Brisbane.Shareholders expressed anger about the scheme, claiming it has only benefited superannuation funds and institutional investors, Fairfax Media with AAP has reported.
Shareholder Ian Maxwell told board members none of them could relate to small shareholders because they had more than 10,000 shares in the company.
“We don’t want to sell, we want to if possible reinvest the dividends or live off the dividend,” Fairfax reported Maxwell as stating.
“The last thing small shareholders want is a buyback. All it means is we sacrifice the shares for an illusory return and that only works if we’re in pension mode.”
Maxwell asked Telstra chair Catherine Livingstone to issue special dividends instead, with Livingstone responding buybacks were better for shareholders in the long term, according to the report.
“We undertook this buyback because we had excess capital as a result of our strong operating performance, together with cash from key divestments completed during the year,” Livingstone had told the AGM.
“We believe the buyback is of benefit to all Telstra shareholders. For those shareholders who did not participate, the buyback is expected to improve the earnings per share ratio, because the number of shares on issue has been reduced.”
Meanwhile, Telstra chief executive officer David Thodey told the AGM two issues that had been raised with regard to Telstra’s contact centres were Telstra’s international call centre operations, and the quality of the service offered.
With regard to international call centres, Thodey stated more and more customers want to interact online.
“As a business, we have a responsibility to consider the economies of scale offered by global providers, along with the flexibility that gives us in managing fluctuating call volumes at different times of the year,” Thodey stated.
“This means that our contact centre work here in Australia is declining and will continue to do so. Ultimately, however, our aim is to keep creating new jobs that are sustainable in an increasingly digital, mobile and global world. We are also serving more international customers.”
With regard to quality of service, Thodey stated all of Telstra’s centres, regardless of where they are, “are held to the same high standards of customer service, communication skills, privacy and security information”.
“We have implemented many initiatives to improve the service we offer our customers – though we still have much to do,” Thodey told the AGM.
Looking ahead, Thodey stated Telstra expects continued low single-digit income and EBITDA growth to offset the absence of CSL (its Hong Kong mobile business) 2014 operating revenue and EBITDA.
Thodey stated, excluding the $561 million profit on the sale of CSL in 2014, Telstra’s income and EBITDA guidance for 2015 is broadly flat.