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  • Harvey Norman’s (HVN) Annual General Meeting yesterday caused quite a stir as Chairman Gerry Harvey reportedly lashed out at shareholders following a second strike
  • The AGM announced sales results from the July to October period which amounted to over $2 billion for international stores
  • This slight 2 per cent increase, however, was not a focus during the meeting
  • Shareholder activist and former journo Stephen Mayne spoke on behalf of the Board to express concerns on governance and integrity
  • According to reports, Mr Harvey fired back aggressively
  • While the board initially voted in favour of a spill motion, Harvey Norman dodged the spill vote, with Mr Harvey and his wife Katie Page remaining at the top
  • The Chairman stated some changes will need to be made to avoid a 3rd strike next year
  • Harvey Norman shares are up slightly 0.35 per cent and trading for $4.31 each

Harvey Norman’s Annual General Meeting yesterday caused quite a stir as Chairman Gerry Harvey reportedly lashed out at shareholders.

The homewares retailer conducted the AGM to announce its aggregated amount of sales from stores in New Zealand, Croatia, Slovenia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, and from independent Harvey Norman, Domayne, Joyce Mayne branded franchised complexes.

In total aggregated sales amounted to $2.44 billion from July 1 2019 to October 31 2019 – a mere 2 per cent increase from the previous year.

Comparable same-store aggregated sales went up 1.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent in Australian franchised stores.

Despite the minute increase of overseas aggregated sales, results may appear stronger due to strong foreign currencies over this period.

Harvey Norman also suffered a second consecutive strike against its remuneration report after a vote at the AGM, along with Katie Page’s re-election as CEO.

Voting results showed 47.5 per cent of shareholders lodged prior to the meeting voted against the remuneration report and 51.85 per cent for which led to a spill motion.

A spill motion occurs when members of a party feel the leader is taking them in an undesirable direction or isn’t delivering on promises made to those who elected the leader.

On behalf of major shareholders, shareholder activist Stephen Mayne came to the AGM to deliver a message on corporate governance.

Essentially, the board has reportedly had some issues with Gerry Harvey and wanted some more independence. However, Mr Harvey seems set on maintaining the company as a family-owned “autocratic structure.”

“Harvey Norman is a family company, it always has been,” the Chairman said.

Over time, there have been several instances, such as the lack of women on the board and independent directors and no accounting for irregularities and concerns, where Gerry hasn’t listened to the $5 billion public company’s investors and minorities.

Stephen Mayne’s address sparked some “abuse” from the Chairman.

Inside reports state Mr Mayne politely asserted concerns however Gerry apparently lashed back asking Stephen “Are you a sexual predator?”

The question related to a list supposedly published by Mayne at his former publication “Crikey” back in 2001. The list ranked female politicians based on their physical appearance, however, Stephen has previously apologised for this.

Stephen reportedly labelled the accusation as “the most abusive experience” he had seen at over hundreds of AGMs.

“It’s complete recalcitrance in focusing on the corporate governance and transparency issues,” Mayne said.

While the shareholder sent the message to Gerry on improving his governance and integrity, the resulting spill vote only attracted 11.21 per cent of shareholders.

In turn, Gerry Harvey’s wife Katie Page was re-elected as CEO.

“We can put two women on the board tomorrow and that gets rid of a lot of our problems, but that’s doing something to appease somebody rather than doing something that is good for the company,” the Chairman said in an exclusive interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Harvey did, however, acknowledge that changes genuinely do need to be made if he wants Harvey Norman to prevent a third strike next year.

“Whatever changes they make, I’ll go along with. But I’m more interested in the big picture,” Gerry concluded.

Harvey Norman shares are up slightly 0.35 per cent and trading for $4.31 each at midday trade.

HVN by the numbers
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