Easyjet to avoid Brexit shareholder shake-up backlash but faces questions over female board representation at annual general meeting

Rebecca Smith
The airline's annual general meeting is on the 8 February
The airline's annual general meeting is on 8 February (Source: Getty)

Easyjet looks set to avoid a backlash over a proposed Brexit shake-up that could force UK investors to sell shares, but faces questions over female representation on its board at next week's annual general meeting (AGM).

Its remuneration policy is also under scrutiny.

The airline revealed in November that it wanted to amend its articles of association, which give directors the power to limit the ownership of Easyjet's shares by non-UK nationals. It intends to tweak this so they apply to non-EU shareholders, which excludes UK holders once Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

The shareholder advisory group Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) said in a note today it had not identified any serious concerns with the proposal, with the airline getting Brexit-ready to make sure it can comply with EU ownership rules for airlines.

Read more: Easyjet's new boss cuts his salary to match Carolyn McCall's

The group has though, recommended shareholders oppose the re-election of non-executive chairman John Barton as a director.

Pirc said:

He is the chairman of the nomination committee and no target has been set to increase the level of female representation on the board, which is currently insufficient at 22.2 per cent.

The airline said in response: "Easyjet has a strong track record of gender balance. Women currently make up 25 per cent of our PLC board and 37.5 per cent of our executive management team.

We have experienced a number of changes to both our boards in the last year. We are currently recruiting for two PLC board positions and our aim is to improve the gender balance in future.

While Pirc encouraged investors to back the carrier's remuneration report, it has advised they oppose the remuneration policy. It noted that for the annual bonus, one third of any net payment is deferred into shares, saying best practice would be to defer at least 50 per cent.

"The CEO potential variable pay under all incentive schemes is considered excessive as it can amount to 450 per cent of base salary," Pirc added.

This week, Easyjet's new chief executive Johan Lundgren said he was cutting his salary to match what his predecessor, Carolyn McCall, was earning.

Lundgren said the airline was "absolutely committed to giving equal pay and equal opportunity for women and men".

Easyjet said in November that the gap between what male and female colleagues earn at the carrier, based on median hourly rates, was 45.5 per cent, and 51.7 per cent based on mean hourly rates.

The airline's chief executive said yesterday he intended to address the gender imbalance in the airline's pilot community, "which drives our overall gender pay gap".

Separately, Pirc also recommended shareholders at Imperial Brands oppose the firm's remuneration report and policy, saying the ratio of CEO pay compared to average employee pay was "inappropriate at 92:1".

The group also wants the re-election of Mark Williamson as chair opposed, saying he "cannot effectively represent two corporate cultures". Williamson is also chairman of FTSE 250 firm Spectris.

Read more: EasyJet plans Brexit shake-up which could force UK investors to sell shares

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