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Cookson and SIG hit by pay protests

City A.M. Reporter
COMPANIES SIG and Cookson Group faced investor opposition to their executive pay schemes yesterday as pressure grows for shareholders to challenge excessive boardroom rewards.

In a poll at SIG’s annual general meeting, two-thirds of shareholders voted against a proposal to give chief executive Chris Davies a 15 per cent pay rise despite the company having slipped to a full-year pre-tax loss.

Shareholders in industrial material firms Cookson voted in favour of proposed executive pay rises at its general meeting, but it was a narrow victory with only 50.98 per cent of investors voting in favour.

Executive salaries and bonuses have come under increasing scrutiny from investors and industry groups in the wake of the global economic downturn.

In January the Association of British Insurers (ABI), whose members own more than a fifth of British stocks, wrote to the country’s 350 largest listed companies to ask for talks on executive pay and bonuses.

The ABI said it wanted a “constructive dialogue” to deliver pay policies that promoted long-term value.

In a statement after the SIG shareholder vote, the company’s chairman Les Tench said: “I believe the majority of the negative vote relates to the increase in our chief executive Chris Davies’s salary following a very difficult year for SIG when profits reduced.”

SIG said it would consult with shareholders to understand their concerns but defended the salary hike.

“The increase....was fully justified and moves his pay closer to the market median,” said Tench.

The chief executive’s salary is set to rise from £465,000 to £532,875.