Shareholders’ voting rights
ABB has one class of shares and each registered share carries one vote at the General Meeting. Voting rights may be exercised only after a shareholder has been registered in the share register of ABB as a shareholder with the right to vote, or with Euroclear Sweden AB (formerly VPC), which maintains a subregister of the share register of ABB.
A shareholder may be represented at the Annual General Meeting by another shareholder with the right to vote, its legal representative, a corporate body (Organvertreter), an independent proxy (unabhängiger Stimmrechtsvertreter) or a depositary (Depotvertreter). All shares held by one shareholder may be represented by one representative only.
For practical reasons, shareholders must be registered in the share register no later than six business days before the General Meeting in order to be entitled to vote. Except for the cases described under section "Limitations on transferability of shares and nominee registration" (see below) of this Corporate governance report, there are no voting rights restrictions limiting ABB’s shareholders’ rights.
Limitations on transferability of shares and nominee registration
ABB may decline a registration with voting rights if a shareholder does not declare that it has acquired the shares in its own name and for its own account. If the shareholder refuses to make such declaration, it will be registered as a shareholder without voting rights.
A person failing to expressly declare in its registration application that it holds the shares for its own account (a nominee), will be entered in the share register with voting rights, provided that such nominee has entered into an agreement with the Board concerning its status, and further provided that the nominee is subject to recognized bank or financial market supervision. In special cases, the Board may grant exemptions. There were no exemptions granted in 2011.
The limitation on the transferability of shares may be removed by an amendment of ABB’s Articles of Incorporation by a shareholders’ resolution requiring two-thirds of the votes represented at the meeting.
Shareholders’ dividend rights
ABB Ltd may pay out a dividend only if it has been proposed by a shareholder or the Board and approved at a general meeting of shareholders, and the auditors confirm that the dividend conforms to statutory law and ABB’s Articles of Incorporation. Dividends are usually due and payable in Swiss francs and the ex-date for dividends is usually two trading days after the approving shareholders’ resolution.
ABB has established, for tax purposes, a dividend access facility for its shareholders who are residents of Sweden. If such shareholders have registered their shares with Euroclear Sweden AB (formerly VPC), then they may elect to receive the dividend in Swedish kronor from ABB Norden Holding AB without deduction of Swiss withholding tax. For further information on the dividend access facility, please refer to ABB’s Articles of Incorporation, a copy of which can be found in the section “Corporate governance – Further information on corporate governance” at www.abb.com/investorcenter
Shareholders’ resolutions at general meetings are approved with an absolute majority of the votes represented at the meeting, except for those matters described in article 704 of the Swiss Code of Obligations and for resolutions with respect to restrictions on the exercise of the right to vote and the removal of such restrictions, which all require the approval of two-thirds of the votes represented at the meeting.
As at December 31, 2011, shareholders representing shares of a par value totalling at least CHF 412,000 may request items to be included in the agenda of a general meeting. Any such request must be made in writing at least 40 days prior to the date of the general meeting and specify the items and the motions of such shareholder(s).
ABB’s Articles of Incorporation do not contain provisions on the convocation of the general meeting of shareholders that differ from the applicable legal provisions.