Kweichow Moutai is a beloved company that produces the most prestigious brand of China’s national liquor, and it is not surprising that its annual general meeting is always a highly anticipated, well-attended affair.
The number of registered attendees in Tuesday night’s event was in excess of 2,400, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
That’s more than the combined number of shareholders who showed up at the farewell assemblies for tycoons Li Ka-shing last year and Lee Shau-kee on Tuesday, during which generous “thank you” gift bags were distributed to loyal supporters.
In the case of Moutai, the big turnout is just to be expected for the world’s largest distiller.
The company is known for laying out a sumptuous dinner for its shareholders, who of course expect its signature products to be offered generously or, if not, get discount coupons for the products, which are not exactly affordable.
No wonder Moutai is sometimes called liquid gold. One bottle costs about 1,500 yuan (US$217) or a fifth of the price of an ounce of gold.
The liquor is not available in Chinese supermarkets. A good friend of mine from Beijing said she couldn’t find a bottle in the capital city, and she had to pay a big premium to get one here in Hong Kong.
And so shareholders come in droves to the company’s AGM in anticipation of having even just a sip of the expensive wine.
This year, however, the turnout was more than the company had expected. Moutai had to set up two venues in its own hotel to house all the shareholders.
And for the first time in ten years, Moutai had to cancel the annual dinner. Just before the AGM was to start, the shareholders received a brief text message on their smartphones saying there would be no dinner after the meeting.
Likewise, the Moutai stores at the venue had put up notices saying that all wine sales were suspended at the moment.
The shareholders were highly disappointed, as to be expected. Li Baofang, the company’s new chairman, offered his apologies, while assuring them that they could buy a bottle of Moutai plus two bottles of the much sought after Chinese Zodiac series.
Not a good debut for Li, the former general manager who took up his new post only this month.
His predecessor, Yuan Rengguo, who led Moutai to become the world’s No. 1 liquor company with a market cap of over one trillion yuan, is one of the latest figures caught up in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
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