Sunday, 20 November 2011

BSkyB weekend news

According to this piece on Bloomberg, The Times has pulled together a list of supporters of James Murdoch at the forthcoming BSkyB AGM. They include Taube Hodson Stonex Partners and... ahem... Odey Asset Management. Yes, apparently Crispin Odey thinks James Murdoch is the "right guy" to chair the company. Big news indeed!

There are three more interesting bits about the Bloomberg/Times report. First is the prediction that Capital are on side too. That is important as they are big holder, but I wonder what their clients will think. Second is the absence of other names. Are they struggling to find supporters? Third is the 20% figure (ie if 20% plus oppose he should go), which also popped up in a Telegraph column. I think this may be expectation management by the company, and if so it might be a useful benchmark.

A more objective comparison will be typical votes against directors. In the first half of 2011 the average oppose plus abtain was about 2.5%, of which 1.7% was the oppose. So a 20% oppose vote would be more than 10 times the average. And how many directors ever receive this kind of opposition? Less than 1%. Looking at a sample of just under 2,000 directors facing election at an AGM in the first half of this year, I can only see 9 that got 20% plus against, and two of those were directors at Eurasian! Add in the fact that News Corp holds 38%, and the board is setting the bar exceptionally low.

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