Thursday, May 17, 2012

PNM Annual Meeting Run With Total Control. Demonstrators Appear Outside.

At the annual meeting of shareholders of PNM Resources, Inc., the protesters got the headline and nearly all the story. That missed the point. But then protesters, ever theatrical, commonly get the headline while the real business goes unreported.
In previous years PNM’s annual meeting has been used as an occasion to show off the company to Albuquerque, a celebration directed especially at the individuals owning a few shares and living here. Not so at Tuesday’s meeting.

PNM’s meeting took its cues from annual meetings as an art form executed with the objective of total control. PNM’s chairman, Pat Collawn, executed the control objective perfectly. The meeting was over in 23 minutes. No one asked questions.

Perhaps 75 people attended. That included board members, staff, employees and a few regular shareholders.

After the meeting I complimented Collawn on the control of the meeting. She didn’t smile.

I was a few minutes late for the 9:00 A.M. start. Collawn was already doing her CEO address, listed as item seven on the agenda. That means she had zipped through items one through six in the near blink of an eye. Those items included electing directors and appointing the accountants.

The meeting was held in downtown Albuquerque in Alvarado Square, PNM’s soon to be abandoned signature building former headquarters that has a huge solar array on one side that hasn’t worked in decades. The entry was dark. But, yes, a security man told me, through the dark entry was the way to the meeting. The security man was one of a group of private security and city police tending the estimated 50 protesters on the sidewalk in front of Alvarado Square.

The Alvarado Square atmosphere was a long way from the relaxed and easy going situation at PNM shareholder meetings held at the South Broadway Cultural Center.

Inside, a woman stood at a high desk in the back of the lobby. She verified my name as a shareholder, checked my ID, and summoned security staff to escort me to the meeting which involved riding up one flight in the elevator. The adjacent escalator wasn’t working. Outside the elevator, the security man pointed me to another check-in table where I received the agenda and a ten-item rules and procedures sheet.

I have attended shareholders meeting for four companies, dating to Ranchers Exploration and Development Corporation as a young teenager. (Sen. Clinton Anderson spoke.) Receiving such a sheet was new, at least one with the amount of detail.

The rules included these items:
“We require attendees to honor the following rules of conduct.”
“We ask you to confine questions or comments strictly to the matter that is under consideration.”
“However the business purpose of the meeting will be strictly observed” with a list of items that might be ruled out of order.

Collawn’s CEO speech was unremarkable, which I suspect was the point from my experience in having written such speeches for CEOs of Sunwest Financial Services and its predecessor, First New Mexico Bancshares. During 2011, PNM invested $251 million, $4 million more than operations produced. In 2010, the gap was $35 million.

Collawn spoke at some length of the favorable regulatory situation in Texas where investments can be recovered faster than New Mexico. (Susana Martinez take note.) Other good news was the 40% increase in the share price during 2011 and a dividend increase.

The 2013 renewable energy plan got a summary, happily minus the channeling of Al Gore laid on at previous annual meetings by Jeff Sterba, who Collawn succeeded at the PNM helm.

For the San Juan generating station, PNM has spent more than $300 million during past few years. PNM seeks a “balanced approach” to further emissions reduction. Collawn slide past the fact the demonstrators and the EPA do not want balance, but that’s what CEOs do in shareholder meetings.

Collawn treated me to another annual meeting new experience. This was the first such meeting I have attended where the CEO has worn braces.

During and after the meeting, a woman hung out in the Alvarado Square lobby, shagging passers by such as the accountants and asking questions. She told me she was not admitted to the meeting even though she had what she and her supporters thought was a legal proxy.

Audio of the meeting is available at

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