Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “We’re learning, we’re studying about the Chinese market and we’ll see what happens.”
Facebook eager to enter China
Sandberg, who was in China last week, said she met with many top clients who use Facebook to show ads to users outside the country. The social media giant does not maintain an office in China but does sell ads to some Chinese companies. The U.S. firm is not expected to win approval to offer its network in China anytime soon, but its interest in China is well-documented.
Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg jogged through Tiananmen Square (China) in March without a pollution mask, sparking a debate on his Facebook page.
In the business portion of the meeting, shareholders approved a company plan and re-elected all eight directors, including Peter Thiel. The plan is to create a new class of shares. Further, they rejected five shareholder proposals on subjects ranging from gender pay equity to giving shareholders more voice at the company. Since Zuckerberg holds majority voting power, the outcomes were no surprise.
The questions taken during the Q&A session after the meeting mostly centered on Facebook’s product plans. When Zuckerberg said he is planning to run the social media giant for a very long time, he won a standing ovation.
Not all happy with the new class of shares
In April, the social networking site proposed creating a new class of non-voting shares to strengthen Zuckerberg’s control over the company. The new class C shares will not have voting rights but will have the same economic rights as other shares, thus allowing the company to distribute the shares to employees and issue some for acquisitions without diluting Zuckerberg’s control of the company. In 2014, Google parent Alphabet made a similar move.
Through the meeting, the shareholders who want more of a say voiced their concerns. NorthStar Asset Management’s chief investment officer, Christine Jantz, voiced her concerns about the plan to issue non-voting shares. Jantz called the setup “a disturbing trend,” adding that the setup diminished the power of shareholders to provide input on a variety of issues like Thiel’s role on the board.
James Richard Wohltmann, a 70-year-old investor who attended the meeting, said there were two schools of thought: those who are comfortable with the current setup and those who want to wrestle control from management.
“The lack of openness isn’t going to change, so you build that into the risk profile of the company,” Wohltmann said.