Barclays and Centrica among the firms braced for shareholder storms at this week's raft of annual general meetings

Rebecca Smith
Jes Staley has been in the hot seat despite Barclays doubling profits in its recent results
Jes Staley has been in the hot seat despite Barclays doubling profits in its recent results (Source: Getty)

Barclays and Centrica are among the companies facing the prospect of shareholder backlash at annual general meetings (AGMs) this week.

Barclays announced profits that more than doubled at the end of last month, but chief executive Jes Staley has been under scrutiny for admitting to trying to unmask a whistleblower, which he later said was an error.

Financial regulators launched a probe into the episode last month and the bank issued a formal reprimand, saying it will also make a "very significant" adjustment to Staley's bonus.

Read more: Pearson shareholders reject executives' pay

In a statement, the bank said: “Barclays and Mr Staley will cooperate fully with the FCA and PRA investigations.”

It said the board had concluded that Staley “honestly, but mistakenly, believed that it was permissible” to identify the author of the whistleblowing letter in question.

Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises investors owning Barclays shares, has encouraged them to abstain or vote against the re-election of Staley at Wednesday’s AGM.

Ahead of the AGM, Barclays said its chairman Sir Ian Cheshire, who also holds positions at Debenhams and Whitbread, plans to reduce his board commitments amid investor unrest too. Glass Lewis had advised investors to vote against his re-election, suggesting he could be "over-boarded".

Elsewhere, British Gas owner Centrica has its annual general meeting today, and there could be fuel for investor unrest. The firm’s yearly report in March showed boss Iain Conn’s annual remuneration was boosted by 37 per cent. Conn was paid £4.15m last year after the firm returned to profit following a loss in 2015. Much of the increase in Conn’s pay is a recruitment award; compensation for rewards he forfeited when joining Centrica from BP in 2015.

But shares have fallen this year and all eyes are on the government’s plans to cap prices for households on standard variable tariffs, expected this week.

Analysts have been predicting the likes of Centrica will take a hit to their earnings, and John Musk at RBC Capital Markets has said the cap will call into question “the sustainability of dividend levels” at Centrica, as well as SSE.

Other firms with AGMs this week include RBS, Lloyds, ITV and William Hill.

It comes after Pearson was bruised on Friday by shareholders revolting against boss John Fallon’s £1.5m pay package. Two-thirds of shareholders in the education publisher rejected the firm’s remuneration report in a non-binding vote, after the chief executive’s pay rose 20 per cent last year, despite the firm making a record loss.

Pearson said: “We acknowledge our shareholders’ feedback and will continue to engage with them to ensure our approach to remuneration reflects the best long-term interests of the company.”

Other firms getting a shareholder scare in recent weeks include Inmarsat and AstraZeneca, over executive pay.

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