Saturday, November 20, 2010

BHP Billiton AGM

Last Tuesday BHP Billiton held their annual general meeting at the Perth Convention and Entertainment Centre. I went along to this AGM as well, an interested party. What caught my attention, before entering the building, was a political activist rally whereby they were protesting the mining of uranium by BHP Billiton. Not very many people were in attendance but they were getting a bit of media coverage. I did notice that they were not able to spell very well, when it came to their protest banners, so perhaps they were trying to protect their rights for not having to spell properly.

Anti uranium mining banner referencing the current Western Australia Premier Mr Colin Barnett

Ban uranium mining banner

bhp biliton - violating human rights to poor spelling

BUMP - Ban Uranium Mining Permanently

Gathered uranium mining protesters, media and onlookers

No uranium mines in W.A.

Nuclear waste - where does it go/

Toxic Traders?

This meeting, unlike Wesfarmers' AGM, was held upstairs. There were quite a few TV cameras to record the event and some professional photographers in attendance. But the display before entering the room before the meeting was to be held wasn't as good as Wesfarmers last week. There was very little paraphernalia on display.

BHP Billiton shareholder registration

Marius Kloppers, the managing director and CEO, surprised me by how young he looked. I expected someone much older to be running a company as big as BHP Billiton at appear to be also are quite mild mannered. This is something I certainly wasn't expecting. I had anticipated that he would sound much more like a bully. Where was all the chest beating?

Unlike last week's meeting there was only one row of seats reserved for all the directors. A Noongyar "Welcome to Country" was delivered by Neville Collard, who wore a kangaroo skin called a booka or with a red cockatoo tail feather. It was Neville's opinion that the early settlers, white men, were spirits of deceased family and so the local Aboriginals welcomed them.

This gathering was for the 150th anniversary of BHP Billiton. Not that they made such a big song and dance about it though. Chairman of the meeting was Mr Jac Nasser and I thought he did quite a good job. I must say it was much more lively than last week though and they were quite a few political activists who were taking part in the meeting. People were protesting the likelihood of a uranium mine opening at Yeelirrie. A few locals had made their way down to attend a meeting and they were quite vocal. When Jo Valentine, a member of Friends of the Earth Australia, got up to talk there was a murmur around the crowd as she is very well known. A couple of members of the Australian Conservation Foundation spoke too. One guy from Colombia came all the way to talk at the meeting. Tully McIntyre, also from Friends of the Earth, wanted to know what BHP Billiton had to say about their 44% share in Deepwater Horizon, the doomed oil rig off the coast of America that caused so much environmental damage, but the Chairman promptly told her to get her facts straight as BHP Billiton has no interest in Deepwater Horizon.

One local Aboriginal who lives close to the proposed uranium mine site warned that it was a place of death. He said that the custodians of the land, the Aboriginals, want partnership in the resources and that it was legalised robbery as BHP was just taking the land from "our people". One member of the Conservation Council of WA wanted to know if Western Australian uranium would find its way into nuclear weapons and why had BHP Billiton blocked a public enquiry. Another member of the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the slide that showed percentage of nuclear power used in the production of electricity wasn't likely to change in the next 20 years according to slide shown earlier in the meeting but the Chairman soon told him that the overall demand for electricity was going to increase greatly in that time frame.

Malcolm Broomhead, one of the directors, was standing for re-election. This was opposed by one shareholder as he stated that Broomhead had stolen $30-$40m from Orica when he was CEO of that company. This guy certainly was vocal.

When it came to voting on the items on the agenda they were introduced individually and the Chairman put forward the motion for each and added his voting intention before asking if there were any questions. When it came to the item for the Chairman who was seeking re-election he handed over the chair to John Schubert who handed it straight back once the item had been dealt with. One particular item was declared a special resolution, that of the share buyback, as it had been announced the previous day that it would be going ahead and so any vote would not be binding on the board.

Alex Vanselow, Group Executive and Chief Financial Officer, appeared to drift of to sleep during the meeting as he had nothing to say. No questions were asked of him.

Some points of interest brought to my attention by the Chairman were that China had just overtaken Japan with regards to GDP but with a population 10 times that of Japan there was quite a potential for growth. Coupled with India, which has 90% of China's population, and a GDP of only about a quarter there is a strong driver for growth in the export of commodities. The emerging new economic powers appear to be Brazil, Russia, India and China. Also, mega cities in Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, India and China, including Delhi, Kalkota, Shanghai, Beijing and Sao Paolo, were likely to drive growth in the region.

Hundreds of millions of people in poverty were being helped by BHP Billiton's 100 operations in 25 countries worldwide with 100,000 employees and contractors. Community programs received 1% of pre-tax profits during the last financial year with the total donated reaching $200m.

BHP Billiton maintains a simple management style and represents a scalable organisation with expandable assets. Coupled with disciplined execution of projects and fewer, larger assets that are low cost and expandable, it is poised to do very well in international operations.

I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd and Mr Hardwick and Mr Campbell whom I saw last week got up to speak and make some very relevant points.

Following the meeting we were invited to partake in refreshments including hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and desserts. Very nice indeed. I was waiting for Marius Kloppers to make an appearance but all of the exits were attended by bodyguards and I rather got the opinion that he was a protected species. Whilst having my lunch Alan Boeckmann, one of the directors, came up to me and started a conversation. Actually, I had something quite relevant regarding the company I work for and his so that might have surprised him somewhat. It was nice that he was approachable and wanted to chat. He asked about my feelings regarding the meeting and I said that the agenda was much the same as the AGM I attended last week but the procedure was quite different and the Chairman had conducted it quite well. We spoke about the level of political activism that was evident and he mentioned that meetings in the USA attracted many more nutjobs than this one had.

Then it was back to work.


Anonymous said...

Wow hot shorts ha ha Cool that looks like you had fun. Good for you. Gil

Iris Flavia said...

We just had another Castor Transport. Boy, heaps of Police was needed, from Germany and France due to protesters, mainly from the Green Party.
Seems they do not know that the nuclear waste originally came from us, went to France to get "cleaned" and came back here for end bearing.
But I think for those guys electricity simply comes from the socket.
Once you ask them to go in the forest and get some woods if they want a warm place, they might just want to buy electricity from some (much unsafer) nuclear plant in Russia?!
Living quite near the Asse,
I am so sick of the Green Party over here...
Don´t wanna even know what the platoon for the last transport did cost...

Hammy said...

Asse looks to be a bit scary especially considering it's happened in a country used to doing things by the book. I.e. taking note of authority. There would certainly be more unscrupulous operators out there.