Woodside doubles down in proxy war to save Goyder

Matt Mckenzie
The Nightly
Woodside has backed in Mr Goyder in a note to the advisory and its subscribers. Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images
Woodside has backed in Mr Goyder in a note to the advisory and its subscribers. Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images

Oil and gas producer Woodside has backed in chair Richard Goyder’s “strong track record” amid pressure from an influential proxy advisory firm to send him packing.

Mr Goyder was given a bloodied nose last week when CGI Glass Lewis recommended shareholders knock the businessman off as Woodside’s chair at an annual general meeting later this month.

CGI said Woodside had not been listening to investor demands for a faster energy transition, and slammed Mr Goyder’s leadership of Qantas through major turbulence in 2023.

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But Woodside backed in Mr Goyder in a note to the advisory and its subscribers penned on Sunday.

The Perth-based company pointed to Mr Goyder’s leadership through COVID-19, a shock to commodity prices, and the merger with BHP’s petroleum arm.

That $40 billion merger “substantially strengthened Woodside’s balance sheet and positioned the company to be able to invest in the energy transition,” the company said.

“Woodside’s $US5 billion ($7.6bn) investment target in new energy by 2030 would not have been financially achievable before this transformative merger”.

Woodside also sought to skewer CGI’s “flawed analysis” of the company’s climate disclosures and reporting.

The letter — signed by Mr Goyder and director Ann Pickard — said the business held 132 investor meetings in the 2024 financial year.

“We believe Glass Lewis’ recommendations . . . are based on an incorrect conclusion as to the level of shareholder engagement and responsiveness to shareholder feedback”, the letter said.

On Thursday, CGI argued Woodside needed to sharpen up engagement after pressure on climate policy in recent annual meetings.

CGI flagged Mr Goyder’s troubled tenure as chair of airline Qantas which culminated in the early departure of former chief executive Alan Joyce. Mr Goyder has flagged he will exit within months.

Qantas was dragged to the Federal Court by competition regulators following claims of ghost flights.

“Some shareholders may find his accountability for oversight failings relevant in assessing his suitability as the chair of Woodside,” CGI said.

Woodside responded that the company “is a completely distinct business and operates in a very different environment”.

Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility executive director Brynn O’Brien said last week that Mr Goyder was facing a “shareholder revolt over his board’s chronic unresponsiveness to shareholder concerns about the company’s management of climate risk under his helm”.

“It is a world first for an incumbent chair of a major oil and gas company to face the threat of being held personally accountable for company climate failings,” she said.

Woodside shares were up 0.5 per cent on Tuesday to be $30.24 at the time of writing.

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