As you may know, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is holding its 2013 annual general meeting (AGM) this upcoming Tuesday, May 7. Nokia's ADS share price ended the week at $3.30. There is one more trading day before the big event. How will the proceedings impact the share price?
Last year, the day before the AGM, Thursday, May 3, the closing price of one ADS was $3.54. The closing price on the day following the meeting was $3.15, a significant drop of 11%. So, how can shareholders prepare for the impact of the big day? Don't look to Nokia for any help.
When most, if not, all retail investors begin investing, what determines the price of a stock is surrounded in mystery. At its most basic form, it can be compared to another form of market participation. If you've ever haggled on price in a flea market or bazaar, it presupposes that you have knowledge on the value of the product you want to purchase. In the stock market, the same principle applies. The price of one share reflects, in theory, the sum value that all participants have placed on it. You would think that when a publicly traded company broadcasts information to shareholders, it has a responsibility to ensure equal access to all simultaneously. Not Nokia, apparently.
If you have been a Nokia shareholder for less than one year, you may be looking forward to participating in this meeting, if not in person in Helsinki, at least virtually by viewing the proceedings on the Internet. Well, if you can't stand the tension, let me end your anxiety. If you are not registered to attend in person at the Helsinki Exhibition & Convention Centre, you are out of luck. Apparently, Nokia's point of view is that as a shareholder, you have no right to listen in on the proceedings if you are not there in person. You will have access to all the documents that will be discussed, but not the discussions surrounding them.
In May 2012, I was looking for the proceedings on Nokia's website. When I could not find them, I emailed the company's press services. They politely wrote me back that the only proceeding viewable from the AGM would be the CEO's speech. The rest of the proceedings are not broadcast to protect the privacy of those attending.
This response was shocking to me. If you are a shareholder or a journalist that is not fortunate enough to not only be in Helsinki, but to get a seat during the meeting as well, you will not have access to the proceedings of this publicly traded company. This is very puzzling and troubling.
If you are attending the meeting and have the opportunity to ask a question, you will be seen and heard by those attending. You will need to identify yourself to all those in attendance; therefore, your privacy will not remain intact.
In the 21st century, Nokia has the technology to make the proceedings available to all its shareholders who cannot attend in person. For the sake of transparency and fairness, I believe it has the obligation to make this information available to all simultaneously in order to reduce, not only the perception, but the very real possibility of market manipulation. Other publicly traded companies have met this obligation already.
An Example of Transparency and Fairness
BP (NYSE:BP) had a very difficult year in 2010 with the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that took the lives of 11 people, and caused significant damage to the environment, the health and livelihoods of many others.
That year's AGM was held before the oil spill. However, eight months later, this event was still very fresh in the minds of those impacted when BP held its 2011 AGM in April. BP did not try to hide behind a pretense of privacy for those in attendance. It was transparent and fair by broadcasting all proceedings live via BP's website in all its anxious details.
Shareholders have a right to buy and sell shares based on news. Withholding the proceedings from an annual meeting is removing the opportunity to get a rare, first-hand account of a very newsworthy event. It also makes it more difficult for shareholders to make responsible decisions regarding their portfolio.
This lack of transparency and fairness by Nokia removes necessary insight for shareholders to buy and sell their stock in a timely manner. As such, the current price of one share is not factoring all market participants' opinions because they cannot be formed correctly. How can shareholders form correct opinions if they do not have access to important information in an timely manner equally? Hiding behind a pretense of "privacy" therefore becomes an insidious form of market manipulation.
It's time that NOK's share price truly reflects the opinions of all shareholders.