"Protesters force Caterpillar to cut annual meeting short"
ReutersPublished in the "Edmonton Journal" (Canada)
Thursday, June 14, 2007
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ST. CHARLES, Illinois - A handful of protesters waving Palestinian flags and chanting "Take responsibility and do the right thing" on Wednesday disrupted the annual meeting of Caterpillar Inc., prompting the company to adjourn 30 minutes early.
The disruption came after the Peoria, Illinois-based heavy construction and mining equipment manufacturer had reaffirmed its full-year sales and earnings outlook and voted on all shareholder proposals tabled for the meeting.
The protesters, who oppose Caterpillar's sale of tractors that are used by the Israeli Army to demolish the homes of Palestinian civilians, were quickly hustled out of the remote country club conference centre 65 kilometres west of Chicago.
Ironically, Caterpillar had moved its annual meeting to the small town of St. Charles from Chicago last year, in part to avoid protests that have marred that event in recent years.
Caterpillar reiterated its forecast that full-year sales should reach between $42 billion US and $44 billion. Earnings per share should range from $5.30 to $5.80.
The company also said in a statement it is on track to meet its 2010 goal of more than $50 billion in sales and revenue, plus annual earnings per share growth in a range of 15 per cent to 20 per cent.
Earlier in the meeting, Caterpillar shareholders rejected two proposals backed by corporate governance reformers that would have separated the roles of chief executive officer and chair and forced directors to win the endorsement of a majority -- rather than a plurality -- of the voting shareholders.
Shareholders and others attending this year's annual meeting had to run a tight series of security checks before gaining admittance to the event, including two security checkpoints and magnetometers.
Protesters at the meeting included those who rallied in memory of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist who was killed a few years ago by Israeli soldiers driving a Caterpillar bulldozer while she was protesting a home demolition in Rafah, a Palestinian town in the Gaza Strip.
Corrie's parents are suing Caterpillar over their daughter's death in a drawn-out lawsuit.