MARKS & SPENCER believes shareholder activists will not get the required 75 per cent vote in favour of a resolution at its AGM on Wednesday calling on the retailer to split the executive chairman role held by Sir Stuart Rose.<br /><br />The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), has filed a resolution for Wednesday’s shareholder meeting calling on M&S to appoint an independent chairman by July 2010. <br /><br />However the resolution will need a 75 per cent vote in favour of the resolution for it to be enforced. Anything below will be considered as merely advisory by the retailer. A spokesman for M&S yesterday told City A.M. “If it misses the target, it misses the target, it will remain advisory.”<br /><br />The shareholder body in recent weeks has ramped up support from influential activist groups Risk Metrics and PIRC. The Association of British Insurers has issued an amber-topped alert on its report on the company, due to the controversy over corporate governance.<br /><br />PIRC said: “Combining the two roles in one person represents a dangerous concentration of power that is potentially detrimental to board balance, effective debate, and board appraisal.”<br /><br />The group is bracing itself for a wave of protests with half of its shareholder body expected to vote in favour of the resolution. But the bellwether retailer is explicit about repelling its rebel investors. <br /><br />A spokesman for the company said yesterday: “Both the company and the shareholders want to get to the same place of split roles, but there’s a debate about the route.”<br /><br />M&S argues that the current 2011 date for Rose to step down “provides ample time jointly to develop internal candidates and evaluate the external market.” <br /><br />Rose last week waived his entitlement to more than £1m in shares in a bid to appease shareholders.<br /><br />The retailer also hopes to pacify some shareholders with its latest sales figures showing a marked improvement in the first quarter. Like-for-like sales in the UK dropped 1.4 per cent in the 13 weeks to 27 June, bettering the previous quarter as well as forecasts in the City.