THURSDAY 10 SEP 2009 1:37 PM


Voting turnout by investors at European companies' annual general meetings has risen above 50% for the first time, suggesting that shareholders are increasingly seeking to make their feelings heard in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Figures from Manifest, the shareholder adviser, show the average turnout at companies in Western Europe's main eight blue-chip indexes hit 51% in the year to the end of July. In 2006-07, the figure was just 40%.

At 68%, turnout for companies on the FTSE 100 is the highest in the 13 years since records began.

According to Sarah Wilson, chief executive of Manifest, the financial crisis had played a role but a trend towards higher turnout was evident before the crisis.

The requirement for US mutual funds and certain French funds to disclosure share-voting records has also boosted turnout. This discourages them from staying away, as they must explain that to investors.

However, Wilson refused to throw her weight behind calls for compulsory voting, saying it did not always equate to informed voting. "There is a risk that if governments force or strongly encourage voting, investors will simply vote blindly – either automatically in favour of management, or in line with the recommendation of a particular proxy adviser," she said.