Protest vote at FirstGroup over executive pay

Marion Dakers
ALMOST 30 per cent of FirstGroup shareholders voting in yesterday’s annual meeting refused to back the transport group’s pay plans for its top staff.

And 22.7 per cent of shareholders voted against the reappointment of Martin Gilbert, who is stepping down as chairman once a replacement is found.

Gilbert announced his departure in May alongside news of the firm’s £615m discounted rights issue to cut its debts and defend its credit rating.

Chief executive Tim O’Toole turned down a bonus of 70 per cent of his £1.02m basic pay for the year in the wake of the fundraising.

The firm said in an update yesterday that its recovery plan was on track, though O’Toole added “there remains significant work to do”.

“The task of returning the group to the position of strength that our customers, employees, and shareholders expect will require hard work and persistent delivery for some time to come, and we are pleased by the support of our shareholders in the recent rights issue,” he said in a statement.

The firm axed its dividend and launched the recovery plan after the abrupt cancellation of its contract to run the West Coast Main Line rail route last October.

Investors holding just 64.16 per cent of the firm’s shares used their votes yesterday.

FirstGroup’s shares closed at 92.85p, or around half the level seen before the rights issue announcement.