How to Hold AGMs Amid COVID-19 in Singapore

Business meeting being held through video conferencing, with physical attendees adhering to safe distancing measures

The Singapore government recently announced an extension of the COVID-19 circuit breaker measures until 1 June 2020. During the circuit breaker period, all in-person gatherings outside of your immediate family are strictly prohibited. Businesses allowed to continue operating must also comply with regulations such as:

  • Reducing the number of workers on-site
  • Implementing safe distancing measures at every workplace premises
  • Allowing non-essential workers to work from home

In light of this, you might be wondering whether and how you can continue to hold your company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). After all, unless exempted, non-listed companies (i.e. companies not listed on the stock exchange) must hold their AGM within 6 months after the end of the company’s Financial Year End (FYE).

If your company is a non-listed company in Singapore and you need to hold your AGM amid the COVID-19 situation, this article will provide a summary of the alternative measures that you may want to implement.

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Can I Hold My AGM During the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker Period?

The short answer is yes. Usually, a company’s AGM will be held in-person, and you can continue doing so. However, you must comply with the prevailing safe distancing requirements. These requirements include:

  • Limiting the number of attendees to up to 6 people
  • Shortening the duration of critical physical meetings as far as possible
  • Ensuring a clear physical spacing of at least 1m apart between each attendee

Alternatively, in light of the alternative arrangements under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings for Companies, Variable Capital Companies, Business Trusts, Unit Trusts and Debenture Holders) Order 2020, you can also choose to hold your AGM virtually, without the need for attendees to be physically present. This is also more ideal if your company has more than 6 members.

Alternative Arrangements for Holding AGMs Amidst COVID-19

The alternative arrangements apply to meetings convened, held, conducted, or deferred in the period starting from 27 March 2020 till 30 June 2021.

Do note that while these alternative arrangements for the personal attendance of AGMs apply to general meetings of companies (including Extraordinary General Meetings or EGMs), they do not apply to meetings for schemes of arrangement ordered by the court.

Holding a meeting and attendance

There are 2 possible options for holding your AGM during the COVID-19 situation:

  1. Holding your AGM entirely virtually via video conferencing or tele-conferencing
  2. Holding the AGM in a physical location with up to 6 attendees present physically, and broadcasting the meeting to the rest of the attendees who will participate virtually

Attendees attending the meeting virtually must be provided access to both an audio broadcast and audio-visual broadcast to the meeting.

Giving notice of the AGM

A notice of the meeting may be sent by email and:

  • Must describe the means by which the meeting can be electronically accessed (including the meeting’s online location, if the meeting is being held online);
  • Must set out how the chairman of the meeting may be appointed, by a member entitled to vote at the meeting, as the member’s proxy to vote at the meeting;
  • Must state how a member may send to the chairman of the meeting the substantial and relevant matters which the member wishes to raise; and
  • May be accompanied by any other documents relevant to the meeting.

Laying out and producing documents at the AGM

Documents required to be laid or produced before the AGM may be sent with the notice of the meeting.

Right or entitlement to speak on resolution at the AGM

Before the AGM, you can ask for attendees to send to the chairman of the meeting, by post or email, the matters which they wish to raise at the meeting.

Each of these matters is to be responded to at or before the meeting by electronic means (such as emailing, tele-conferencing or video conferencing) provided that they are:

  • Substantial and relevant; and
  • Sent within a reasonable period of time before the meeting.

Right or entitlement to be heard or for representations to be read out at the AGM

The person reading out the rights and representations at the AGM may also do so via email, tele-conferencing or video conferencing.

Provision for quorum at the AGM

A quorum may be formed by 2 members of the company personally or electronically present. A member is deemed to be electronically present if he/she :

  • Has access to both an audio broadcast and audio-visual broadcast, and is observing or listening to the meeting;
  • Is verified by the share registrar of the company as attending the meeting; and
  • Is acknowledged by electronic means (such as email, tele-conferencing or video conferencing) by the chairman of the meeting as being present at the meeting.

Provision for member to vote at the AGM

Unless your company constitution allows for members to submit their votes online, members who wish to vote must appoint the chairman of the meeting as the member’s proxy to vote on his/her behalf. They can notify the company of this appointment by post or email to an email address stated in the notice of the meeting.

The same goes for a member who cannot attend the AGM but wants to vote. Even if the member has already appointed a proxy other than the chairman before 13 April 2020, this appointment will be taken as appointing the chairman as the member’s proxy.

This is provided that the member had indicated how he/she wishes to vote on each resolution, and if the member had been given an opportunity to withdraw the original appointment but had not done so.

Extension of Deadline for Holding AGMs and Filing Annual Returns

The above alternative measures are designed to facilitate the temporary holding of virtual meetings. However, if your company is unable to make the above alternative arrangements for your AGM, you can choose to postpone it.

ACRA will automatically grant a 60-day extension of time for all listed and non-listed companies whose AGMs are due during the period 16 April 2020 to 31 July 2020.

If your company had already been granted an extension previously to hold your AGM within this period, you will be given a further 60-day extension from the last date of extension.

Additionally, Annual Returns (AR) filing due dates for the period 1 May 2020 to 31 August 2020 will also be extended for 60 days from the original AR filing date.

The 60-day extension for AGM due dates (up to 31 July 2020) and AR filing due dates (up to 31 August 2020) are illustrated below:

Original due date / Extended due date previously granted for AGM New AGM due date New AR filing due date
16 Apr 2020 to 30 Apr 2020 15 Jun 2020 to 29 Jun 2020 15 Jul 2020 to 30 Jul 2020
1 May 2020 to 31 May 2020 30 Jun 2020 to 30 Jul 2020 31 Jul 2020 to 29 Aug 2020
1 Jun 2020 to 30 Jun 2020 31 Jul 2020 to 29 Aug 2020 30 Aug 2020 to 29 Sep 2020
1 Jul 2020 to 31 Jul 2020 30 Aug 2020 to 29 Sep 2020 30 Sep 2020 to 30 Oct 2020

On 15 September 2020, ACRA announced that business entities with AR filing due dates from 8 September 2020 to 31 October 2020 will have up to 30 November 2020 to file their ARs.

There are currently no deadline extensions for AGMs that fall after 31 July 2020, but ACRA will consider if this is needed at a later date.

You may wish to get in touch with a corporate services firm if your company needs assistance holding your AGM during the COVID-19 situation. A corporate services firm can help you ensure that you are complying with the alternative arrangements within the revised due dates (if applicable) for holding your AGM and filing your ARs.

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