Investor Noel Smyth to report plastics group IPL to regulator

Irish shareholder angry over inability to ask questions of company at agm

Solicitor and shareholder Noel Smyth says he will report  IPL Plastics, led by Aidan Walsh (above), to stock market regulators over the conduct of its agm. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Solicitor and shareholder Noel Smyth says he will report IPL Plastics, led by Aidan Walsh (above), to stock market regulators over the conduct of its agm. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Solicitor Noel Smyth says he will report wheelie bin and packaging maker IPL Plastics to stock market regulators on Wednesday, saying he was denied an opportunity as a shareholder to speak at its annual general meeting on Tuesday night.

Mr Smyth says he and other Irish shareholders want the Dublin-headquartered group that is listed on the Toronto exchange in Canada, put up for sale within three months to halt the slide in its stock, which has tumbled 60 per cent since it floated two years ago.

Following IPL’s agm on Tuesday, the lawyer confirmed he intended to write to the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) on Wednesday to have the meeting declared invalid. “Unequivocally, I will do that in the morning,” he said.

Mr Smyth said he had been denied the opportunity to speak at the meeting, held via conference call to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

Meeting organisers told shareholders who wanted to comment or question management to press the star key and number one their phone keypads.

They said that no-one appeared to indicate they wanted to ask questions, and the meeting ended.

However, Mr Smyth said both he and a colleague sitting next to him tried pressing the star and one keys several times without getting through.

“I would be very surprised if the TSE did not agree with me,” he said. “The only opportunity shareholders get to question the board is at the agm. If you deprive a shareholder of that, you are actually denying them a right.”

Mr Smyth also maintains that IPL failed to give shareholders 21 days notice of the meeting, the minimum market rules require. He says he received proxy voting forms on June 10th, just 10 days before they were due to be returned to IPL.

IPL shares traded at around 5.15 Canadian dollars (€3.36) on Tuesday, less than 40 per cent of the 13.50 Canadian dollars at which they floated two years ago.

Mr Smyth confirmed that he had intended to tell the meeting that Irish investors, who own around 30 per cent of IPL, wanted the company to put itself up for sale within the next three months to prevent any further fall in value.

Long-standng Irish backers include Mr Smyth’s Fitzwilliam Finance Corporation and a company linked to beef processor Larry Goodman, along with several co-ops, including Kerry.

Fitzwilliam invested €5 million in 2006 after the business had been spun out of the old food and farming supplies co-op, IAWS.

Mr Smyth intended warning the board at the agm that, if it did not comply with the demand that IPL be sold, he would seek the backing of Irish shareholders for an extraordinary general meeting.

On Tuesday night, the solicitor said he now intended proceeding with this. He said he was confident of getting the support needed from Irish shareholders.

Mr Smyth also wants an investigation into why Canadian pension fund, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), did not offer to pay $21 (€18.57) a share for the entire company after buying Dermot Desmond’s International Investment and Underwriting’s 25 per cent stake in One51, which became IPL, for this price in 2017.

Subsequent to this, IPL, which makes everything from yoghurt cartons to wheelie bins, floated on the TSE in June 2018, raising around €120 million.

Mr Smyth believes that IPL now sees itself as a Canadian company with Irish shareholders, whom he says have been treated “abysmally”.

IPL, led by Irish chief executive, Alan Walsh, has factories in the Republic, Canada, the US, the UK, Europe and China. The group recently reported revenues in the first quarter of the year rose 10 per cent to €17.7 million.

At the meeting Mr Walsh said worldwide measures to combat Covid-19 had hit revenues during the second quarter. He said the group would cut costs and capital spending as a result.