Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

O'Leary blasts shareholder advisor group as board backed

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has blasted shareholder advisor group PIRC, saying they "have no support" after the airline's board was re-elected with the overwhelming backing of investors yesterday.

PIRC had raised concerns about the perceived independence of some Ryanair directors ahead of the vote.

"We've already taken on board the concerns," Mr O'Leary (pictured) said after the vote at yesterday's agm.

"That's why there's three pages on corporate governance in the annual report, which addresses the independence of the directors, chief executive remuneration and the others."

"Some of the proxy companies just want to make PR by running around issuing statements, they clearly have no support… shareholders have taken it on board and regarded those directors as independent," he added.

Ryanair's former chief operating officer Michael Cawley was elected as a new board member yesterday.

"Next year the proxy firms will be going on about Michael Cawley and Howard Millar, retiring executives joining the board, saying this is cronyism," Mr O'Leary said.

"We would be insane as a company and as a board to lose the cumulative experience of two of the best airline executives in Europe. If they didn't join our board they would be snapped up in a heartbeat."

Another issue raised was the level of Mr O'Leary's pay, which has increased to €1.8m from €1.5m despite profits falling 8pc in the airline's last financial year.

Mr O'Leary said that while he is "very well remunerated", he is paid less than the chief executive of British Airways parent IAG - former Aer Lingus boss Willie Walsh - who's responsible for fewer passengers .

Ryanair's profits for its current financial year will be at the upper end of the €620m to €650m guidance the company gave in August, the airline said.

That would be a significant improvement on last year's figure of €523m.

The company also predicted its traffic will rise to 87 million passengers this year, a million more than previously forecast.

Earlier this month, Ryanair agreed to buy 100 new aircraft from Boeing, with an option to buy 100 more.

Mr O'Leary said he believes the order "puts the company on a platform for very strong growth over the next five to 10 years, with an improving customer experience and a lot of very positive feedback".

"We're using that strong platform to continue to roll out more growth in new routes… we expect over the next five years to grow to something close to 112 or 115 million passengers," he added.

Mr O'Leary said Ryanair has fundamentally changed the way it does business in the last year.

"I would maybe not always put the customer experience over the bottom line, but I've been learning."

"If I'd known that being nicer to our customers was going to result in higher load factors… I'd have been much nicer to our customers some considerable time ago."

Irish Independent

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