WPP bonus approved but protest made

WPP SHAREHOLDERS staged a significant protest against the company&rsquo;s new bonus scheme yesterday, after a quarter failed to back proposals which could see chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell take home &pound;60m over five years.<br /><br />Following its annual meeting in Dublin, the advertising and media group said that the Leadership Equity Acquisition Plan (LEAP) had been voted in by a majority of 75 per cent of shareholders.<br /><br />However, the substantial opposition serves as a stark reminder to companies that investors are scrutinising executive pay more than ever before.<br /><br />Under the approved scheme, senior WPP managers who invest in the company&rsquo;s shares could be rewarded with up to five times as many free shares, as long as the firm hits key performance targets.<br /><br />The vote, which also saw the executive remuneration plan approved, followed an earlier trading statement which revealed that trading had worsened in April.<br /><br />WPP said that like-for-like revenue, which strips out the impact of acquisitions and currency, fell 6.7 per cent in the first four months of the year, compared to a 5.8 per cent fall in the first quarter.<br /><br />&ldquo;Although revenues were below budget for the first four months of 2009, headline operating profit and headline operating margin were both above budget,&rdquo; WPP said.<br /><br />To counter the fall in revenues, headcount fell by almost 4,300 or 3.7 per cent in the four-month period, with over half leaving on a voluntary basis.