Amazon.com Inc.’s (AMZN) first annual shareholder meeting in 1997 was a fairly staid affair. There are not many references to it online, except for CEO Jeff Bezos’ famous Day One letter in which he outlined the company’s customer obsession. Back then, it had 614 employees and 200,000 titles on its site. The company’s cash balance was $125 million. For context, Amazon has 341,000 employees as of this year and reported $3.4 billion in net cash flow at the end of last year. (See also: If You Had Invested Right After Amazon’s IPO)
But annual shareholder meetings are about more than letters and statistics. As the e-commerce juggernaut and its effect on the retail economy grows, its annual meeting has also begun attracting protestors and well-wishers alike. For example, women’s rights groups urged Bezos to Dump Trump last year while animal rights activists protested the sale of foie gras on the company’s website. This year is not expected to be much different. (See also: Why Credit Suisse Thinks Amazon Will Fly Higher)
What To Expect This Year
The Seattle company’s annual shareholder meeting this year occurs against a backdrop of optimism about its prospects. Amazon introduced its cashless grocery store – Amazon Go – last December. According to reports, it is planning to expand the Amazon Go concept internationally. It is quite possible that Bezos will provide more than a hint of his plans for the concept during the meeting. The company’s smart assistant Alexa has moved from strength to strength to dominate the market for consumer-friendly AI technology. It is likely that we will get indicators of how and where Amazon is likely to move next. This year’s meeting will not be without protests.
According to reports, Amazon Prime Air cargo pilots protesting working conditions and salaries and climate change activists urging the company to do more for civic and environmental issues are set to make their case heard at the annual general meeting through protests. Diversity in the technology industry is also likely to be on the agenda. After attending the company’s AGM in 2015, Reverend Jesse Jackson will be back this year to make a case for diversity. More diversity in its ranks should have a positive effect on Amazon’s bottom line. A McKinsey study released recently stated that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.