November 30, 2018 / 1:39 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 2-CEZ minority shareholders walk out of EGM in protest at pared-back agenda

(Adds EGM conclusions in paragraph 10)

PRAGUE, Nov 30 (Reuters) - A group of minority stakeholders in Czech utility CEZ on Friday walked out of a shareholder meeting they had requested to challenge management, saying the company had left some of their proposals off the agenda.

The group, led by Czech investor Michal Snobr, holds a combined stake of just over 1 percent.

It had called for the extraordinary general meeting to discuss overhauling management’s stock option programme, secure representation on the supervisory board and gain a bigger say in company strategy.

Snobr told the CTK news agency that there was nothing substantial to debate after the company, which is 70 percent state owned, pared back the agenda schedule.

“I still do not understand the real reason for CEZ’s obstruction,” he said on Twitter. “Everything could have been settled today.”

Snobr could not be reached immediately for further comment.

CEZ has said it had accepted all requests that were legally possible.

Management’s widening dispute with the shareholder group comes amid intensifying debate over how CEZ or the state will finance the construction of new nuclear power units.

The extraordinary meeting was due to vote on three points: giving minority shareholders a spot on the supervisory board; requiring the board to get shareholder consent to grant stock options; and giving shareholders approval rights over “business policy”.

CTK said the meeting rejected the shareholders’ proposals but accepted a management counterproposal to add a set time interval of four years for the board to present business policy to shareholders.

Snobr and his group had sought other agenda items including opposing a potential sale of CEZ’s Pocerady power plant and refocusing strategy away from foreign markets.

The shareholder group has said previously that it was concerned that CEZ would squander or inefficiently use future cash flow.

Snobr and other shareholders left soon after the meeting began and planned to go to court to demand a new meeting with the group’s proposed agenda, according to CTK.

The company has proposed splitting off its nuclear and coal assets into the hands of the state, which would then take over the nuclear project. Investors would get a majority stake in CEZ’s renewables and new energy business.

However, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has long preferred CEZ to be the investor in the nuclear project via a subsidiary, although CEZ has refused so far to build plants without explicit government backing that would guarantee returns on investment. (Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Susan Fenton and Kirsten Donovan)

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