The way your columnist sees it, there are three decent reasons for investors to attend an AGM physically during the corporate jamboree season now underway.

They can turn up for the free refreshments and handouts, or to throw brickbats at the board (metaphorically speaking).

Or they can hope to glean extra morsels by chatting with management reps mingling with shareholders (with varying degrees of comfort).

Sadly, the refreshments and ‘showbags’ aren’t what they used to be since the days Leighton Holdings ran a full bar, and of course Fosters Group had beer on tap.

We’re told that investors in the old Pacific Dunlop once got underwear in their showbags when the company owned Bonds, but we haven’t got to the bottom of that one.

It’s easy to blame Covid and Zoom AGMs for the parsimony, but it’s been a long-term trend as boards seek to avoid anything resembling extravagance.

Privately, some boards don’t want to make the occasion too comfortable, lest more shareholders attend to ask curly questions.

So what AGMs are worth the (free) price of admission?

We can’t speak for the refreshments first hand, but there has been plenty of spice already.

The AGMs of CSL (ASX:CSL) are normally genteel occasions but last week’s affair was dominated by pesky questioning about why the company shelled out $17 billion for iron deficiency group Vifor.

The previous week, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) faced a grilling not so much on mortgage margins and delinquencies, but the bank’s $2 million support for the failed ‘Yes’ case.

This week’s AGM of Endeavour Group (ASX:EDV) should be a hoot given the well-publicised tensions between the current board and Team Bruce Mathieson, which is pushing for its board candidate Bill Wavish to be elected.

In the case of Qantas (ASX:QAN), investors are likely to attend the November 3 AGM – the first of the post Alan Joyce era – with mixed sentiments.

The airline has done well for investors but many of them are also Qantas customers so expect to be regaled with tales of cancelled flights, lost baggage and contact centres that can’t be contacted.

More broadly, investors should tune into any guidance on the impact of inflation and cost pressures – notably energy prices in the wake of the renewed Middle Eastern conflict.

According to Morgans, only 17 per cent of companies provided quantitative earnings guidance at their August profit announcements – about half the number relative to pre-Covid.

This raises the prospect of both pleasant and nasty surprises and companies including Credit Corp (ASX:CCP), Bapcor (ASX:BAP) and Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) have already disappointed the market with their guidance.

Macquarie Equities’ research suggests that over the last 12 years, trading volumes have risen an average 37.5 per cent on the day of the AGM, with marginal underperformance over the next four weeks.

On the happier side of the ledger, Domino’s Pizza (ASX:DMP) could serve up a nice surprise.

Another decent spectator sport pertains to the companies that last year copped a ‘first strike’ rejection of their remuneration report. If they receive a ‘second strike’ this year, there’s a mandatory board spill vote.

Last week, Treasury Wine Estates (ASX:TWE) copped its maiden first strike over share-based incentives to chief executive Tim Ford, on the basis that he can’t be blamed for the profit impact of China’s wine import tariff.

Next Thursday, Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) faces a roughing-up over a proposed incentive plant to CEO Paul Flynn – seen by proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services as overly generous. Or will all be forgiven after the miner’s well-received purchase of BHP’s coal assets this week?

Last year’s first strike recipients included the ASX itself (ASX:ASX), Downer EDI (ASX:DOW) and Cleanaway (ASX:CWY).

There’s plenty of AGM action left, so pour the popcorn and strap yourself in.

This story does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.

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