Aryzta shareholders will not be able to attend its annual general meeting (AGM) today – even by tuning in remotely.
Covid restrictions mean shareholders are not permitted to attend the AGM in Switzerland today or even participate remotely using technology.
The meeting will not be broadcast via video link, and shareholders will have no opportunity to put question to the board despite it coming at an exceptionally important time for the group.
With physical and virtual attendance blocked the only way shareholders can vote at the AGM is via postal proxy votes, but one shareholder told the Irish Independent that paperwork was sent too late for that.
US hedge fund Elliott has made a takeover bid of CHF0.80 (€0.74) per share for the baked goods company which values the business at €734m.
At least one Irish shareholder, whose shares are held through a custodian, did not receive the AGM invite and proxy vote forms until December 3, the date when forms were due to be returned to the custodian in question.
Custodians hold shares on behalf of individual shareholders.
Aryzta said it posted the AGM information to its shareholders on November 23 with a closing date of December 9 for returning proxy cards.
It added that individual custodians who manage shares for clients have set their own timelines for the return of proxies.
“Aryzta has no control over dates set by the custodians,” a spokesperson said.
One shareholder who wished not to be named told the Irish Independent that the way they have been treated “is terrible.”
“My vote probably mightn’t have meant very much, but it is just the very idea of how they are carrying on their business is the crucial point,” the shareholder said.
“There was a similar situation about two years ago where the exact same thing happened, it was this time of the year and we got it [proxy voting cards] in the post and the last day for posting [them back] I think was a couple of days earlier,” they added.
At the AGM shareholders will vote on the elections of three new board members and re-elections of current board members.
This AGM without shareholders is the latest twist in what has become one of the more turbulent sagas in Irish corporate history.
Earlier this month Aryzta chair and interim CEO Urs Jordi said he may remain as chief executive of the company for up to two years, as the Swiss-Irish group seeks to find a permanent replacement for Kevin Toland, who was voted off the board in September and left his CEO role last month.
Mr Jordi, a Swiss executive who was appointed as chairman at an extraordinary general meeting in September, took over the CEO role on an interim basis after Mr Toland’s departure.
His plan will see Aryzta raise between €600m and €800m from asset disposals over the next six to nine months to reduce debt and improve the company’s balance sheet and he has insisted he doesn’t want to sell the company.
Since 2014 Aryzta, which traces its roots back to IAWS, has lost over 90pc of its value, leaving thousands of Irish farmers, co-op shareholders and investors with huge investment losses.