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Tempers flare at Illovo AGM

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By Jacqueline Ndindi:

Emotions dominated Illovo Sugar Malawi annual general meeting (AGM) in Blantyre on Wednesday as minority shareholders protested the company’s decision to continue denying them dividends.

The company has said it arrived at the decision due to on-going cash flow constraints that have resulted from debt payments and poor weather conditions, which have affected production.

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The AGM, which started at 3pm dragged to around 7pm as shareholders and directors struggled to agree on a number of issues.

One of the minority shareholders, Frank Harawa, proposed that the company owners raise capital to pay off the debts, a decision that was shot down by delegates to the meeting.

“It has been over four years since our dividends paid off and, now, we are being told to wait for three to five more years before we are paid.

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“All these profits they are making are all going straight into debt settlement and we are not happy,” Harawa said.

Despite failure to pay dividends, the meeting passed a resolution to raise sitting allowances and annual fees for directors.

The minority shareholders also protested the lack of transparency by the sugar giant’s board of directors on critical issues, including failure to disclose the terms of an out-of-court settlement between the company and one minority shareholder, R Savjan.

What raised eyebrows was that, after dragging the company to court, Savjan was appointed as a director of Illovo Sugar Malawi, which the shareholders believed was a form of appeasement.

Illovo Malawi Chairperson, Gavin Dalgleish, said the company was working hard to make more profits and save costs to generate earnings which could be shared among owners as dividends.

“I am personally not at ease that we are still unable to pay off dividends to our shareholders. This is why I would like to assure everyone that we are doing all we can to improve business so that our shareholders are able to benefit from their investment,” Dalgleish said.

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