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 (Euroclear), which maintains a subregister of the share register of ABB.
A shareholder may be represented at the Annual General Meeting by its legal representative, by another shareholder with the right to vote or an independent proxy designated by ABB (unabhängiger Stimmrechtsvertreter). 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 6 business days before the general meeting in order to be entitled to vote. Except for the cases described below, 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 ABB 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 2013.
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
The unconsolidated statutory financial statements of ABB Ltd are prepared in accordance with Swiss law. Based on these financial statements, dividends may be paid only if ABB Ltd has sufficient distributable profits from previous years or sufficient free reserves to allow the distribution of a dividend. Swiss law requires that ABB Ltd retain at least 5 percent of its annual net profits as legal reserves (which are comprised of ordinary reserves, capital contribution reserve and reserve for own shares), unless these reserves already amount to 20 percent of ABB Ltd’s share capital. Any net profits remaining in excess of those reserves are at the disposal of the shareholders’ meeting.
Under Swiss law, ABB Ltd may only pay out a dividend if it has been proposed by a shareholder or the Board of Directors of ABB Ltd and approved at a general meeting of shareholders, and the auditors confirm that the dividend conforms to statutory law and ABB Ltd’s Articles of Incorporation. In practice, the shareholders’ meeting usually approves dividends as proposed by the Board of Directors, if the Board of Directors’ proposal is confirmed by the statutory auditors.
Dividends are usually due and payable no earlier than three trading days after the shareholders’ resolution and the ex-date for dividends is normally two trading days after the shareholders’ resolution approving the dividend. Dividends are paid out to the holders that are registered on the record date. Euroclear administers the payment of dividends on those shares registered with it. Under Swiss law, dividends not collected within five years after the due date accrue to ABB Ltd and are allocated to its other reserves. As ABB Ltd pays cash dividends, if any, in Swiss francs (subject to the exception for certain shareholders in Sweden described below), exchange rate fluctuations will affect the U.S. dollar amounts received by holders of ADSs upon conversion of those cash dividends by Citibank, N.A., the depositary, in accordance with the Amended and Restated Deposit Agreement dated May 7, 2001.
For shareholders who are residents of Sweden, ABB has established a dividend access facility (for up to 600,004,716 shares). If these shareholders register with Euroclear, they may elect to receive the dividend from ABB Norden Holding AB in Swedish krona (in an amount equivalent to the dividend paid in Swiss francs) without deduction of Swiss withholding tax. For further information on the dividend access facility, see ABB Ltd’s Articles of Incorporation, a copy of which can be found at www.abb.com/about/corporate-governance
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.
At December 31, 2013, shareholders representing shares of a par value totaling 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.