Ryanair bans media from attending its annual general meeting

Irish budget airline says move is to allow shareholders discuss ‘all matters freely with the board’

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary posing for media photographs at the airline’s agm in Dublin in 2017. Photograph: Tom Honan.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary posing for media photographs at the airline’s agm in Dublin in 2017. Photograph: Tom Honan.

 

Ryanair has barred media from attending its main shareholders’ meeting next week in a rare move for an Irish-listed company.

The airline, which has just emerged from a summer of industrial relations turbulence, is due to hold its annual general meeting (AGM) on September 20th.

Ryanair said on Monday that it would not invite or admit press to the meeting to allow shareholders to “discuss all matters freely with the board” without having those discussions distorted for public relations purposes.

Shareholders at the meeting can quiz chief executive Michael O’Leary and other key figures on how the company is run, and vote on the re-election of board members such as long-standing chairman David Bonderman.

Ryanair also said that it would not be holding a press briefing after the meeting, which it has done in the past, hosted either by Mr O’Leary or other executives such as chief financial officer Neil Sorahan and chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.

Listed companies are not obliged to admit the press to their agms but most do, partly because this allows shareholders unable to get to the meeting to read reports on proceedings.

Following such meetings, executives normally brief the press and answer questions on the discussions with shareholders and the performance of the business.

While it is rare, some Irish companies have excluded media from meetings in the past. A decade ago the payments group Payzone barred reporters from an extraordinary general meeting in Dublin at which shareholders voted to oust then chief executive John Nagle and chief financial officer John Williamson. Payzone was an Irish company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market. Payzone has since delisted from the stock exchange.

Limited access

After the financial crisis the Republic’s banks, which taxpayers bailed out for billions of euro, would only give TV camera and sound crews limited access to their shareholders’ meetings, although they did allow reporters cover the entire proceedings.

Ryanair is not facing financial difficulties. The airline expects to make between €1.25 billion and €1.35 billion profit in its current financial year, which ends on March 31st, although it has cautioned investors that air fares are under pressure.

Last week the carrier settled a dispute over base transfers, promotions and other issues with a group of Irish-based pilots that led to five one-day strikes at the airline in July and August.

At the same time, proxy firm Glass Lewis, which scrutinises how companies adhere to voluntary corporate governance codes, called on shareholders to vote against Mr Bonderman’s re-election as chairman and a resolution on executive pay, which are due to go before the meeting.

Mr Bonderman has been chairman of Ryanair for more than two decades.

The airline responded to the call by predicting that shareholders would vote in favour of Mr Bonderman’s re-election and the other resolutions, as they have done in the past.