Farcical Cyprus Airways GM ends in landslide vote

THE MAJORITY of Cyprus Airways shareholders last night approved its board of directors go ahead with a strategic plan to save the flagging airline.

The board called the extraordinary general meeting to put the following ‘special vote’ to the shareholders: “That the company may continue to operate in the best possible way that the circumstances allow.”

The meeting was scheduled for 6pm at Nicosia’s conference centre, but kicked off 20 minutes later after everyone had gathered in the crowded amphitheatre.

Cyprus Airways chairman Constantinos Loizides gave the audience a brief outline of the airline’s financial problems, the reasons for those problems and how the company aimed to save the national carrier with a strategic plan similar to one which he said had been implemented by other airlines around the world. He also told them a proposal had been put to the company and unions on Sunday after negotiating for weeks with both sides to agree to a plan to save the ailing national carrier.

Although Loizides had planned for the meeting to be brief and for the day’s agenda to be put to the vote as soon as he had finished his 10-minute explanation of the current situation, the shareholders had a different scenario in mind.

The shareholders said it was unfair their chairman to expect them to take a vote when it was apparent the board itself had differences over what direction to take to save the airline. Others also wanted to know who was to blame for leading the company towards financial ruin and whether those responsible would be called to answer for their involvement in the matter.

“How can a board with differences of opinion implement such a plan,” one shareholder wanted to know. “We’ve seen it reported in the papers that four board members are in disagreement with the others.” The shareholder was referring to leaked press reports that the board members were not unanimous in their support of the strategic plan.

But Loizides said that differences of opinion were “healthy” and “normal”. He said what was important was that decisions were made and carried out and that the board should be judged on its decisions, not how it reached them.

The smaller shareholders wanted answers on how the company planned to pay its staff for the remaining months and others wanted assurances that the strategic plan, if implemented, would be effective and that they would get their dividends.

Others had different gripes as tempers started to flare. Demetrakis Christoforou demanded to know why a Cyprus Airways pilot had landed at Paphos airport several years and not continued on to his destination. And Stavros Demou – a former airline employee – wanted to know why members of staff in managerial roles had not been made redundant. As for Giorgos Hadjistylis, he pointed out that the same managers and legal advisers who would be used to implement the plan were the same ones who had led the company to ruin.

Loizides kept his cool throughout the meeting and reiterated that the shareholders questions were valid. However he said they would be addressed at a different time or in some cases, he offered to one-on-one with some shareholders.

At 7.40pm the chairman appeared to have enough of the meeting, as has had a handful of other shareholders who had already started fidgeting and itching to get home.

He put the special vote to the vote and after the government, the airline’s major shareholder with 69 per cent, and three major private shareholders approved the proposal, thus securing the necessary 75 per cent majority, it was adopted.

“We have over 75 per cent in favour of the vote therefore it is approved,” said Loizides. Although the other small shareholders appeared dissatisfied with the procedure, they were told that it did not matter if they voted against the proposal as the “majority” had already voted in favour.

“This is a joke… We were invited here and it was a waste of time… Why did we even bother to come…. This is just typical,” were but a few of the frustrated comments as the shareholders shuffled out of the auditorium. Only the board members and Communication Minister Harris Thrasou appeared satisfied with the end result.