Thursday 21 September 2017

Ryanair shareholders see red over bonuses

Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Over one-third of Ryanair shareholders voted against the low-cost carrier's bumper executive bonus scheme in an unprecedented investor revolt at Michael O'Leary's airline.

Some 337 million shares or 33.51 per cent of shareholders opposed the scheme, which could give up to five per cent of the airline to key executives under a bonus plan.

Ryanair's biggest shareholders are US funds Capital Research, Baillie Gifford and Blackrock. Maverick chief executive O'Leary holds another 3.59 per cent, with Norwegian sovereign wealth fund Norges Bank having a 1.28 per cent stake.

Over 13 per cent of Ryanair investors also voted against accepting the company's financial accounts, directors' report and auditor's report in a shock display of dissatisfaction with Mr O'Leary and his team. Despite the investor revolt, all of the board resolutions – including the bumper bonus scheme – were approved.

While investor revolts against executive pay have become more common following the so-called "shareholder spring", Ryanair's shareholders have been a more passive group in recent years.

Last May, Ryanair was involved in a shareholder revolt at Aer Lingus, where it joined in with 46 per cent of shareholders in opposing the re-election of trade unionist David Begg to the airline's board.

Last year, 24 per cent of shareholders voted against executive pay at Michael Carvill's mining company Kenmare, with 23 per cent abstaining. There were major votes against board motions at Glanbia, Kerry and Tullow.

"A vote of two-to-one in favour is not suggestive of unhappiness," said a Ryansir spokesman.

The €9bn airline was splattered by stock markets this month as it stunned investors with a rare profits warning.

The airline, which has ordered 175 new aircraft, has just inked a new long-term deal with Stansted Airport. This will see it jack up passenger numbers to 20 million in return for lower fees and more efficient facilities.

Hopes of a similar deal to expand passenger numbers and introduce new routes from Dublin Airport have stalled in recent months.

Sunday Independent

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