Rose believes activists will fail to deliver

MARKS &amp; 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),&nbsp; has filed a resolution for Wednesday&rsquo;s shareholder meeting calling on M&amp;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&amp;S yesterday told City A.M. &ldquo;If it misses the target, it misses the target, it will remain advisory.&rdquo;<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: &ldquo;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.&rdquo;<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: &ldquo;Both the company and the shareholders want to get to the same place of split roles, but there&rsquo;s a debate about the route.&rdquo;<br /><br />M&amp;S argues that the current 2011 date for Rose to step down &ldquo;provides ample time jointly to develop internal candidates and evaluate the external market.&rdquo; <br /><br />Rose last week waived his entitlement to more than &pound;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.