Sunday 26 January 2020

Second advisory firm baulks at Hibernia chiefs' pay

Hibernian REIT chief Kevin Nowlan faces opposition to a pay rise
Hibernian REIT chief Kevin Nowlan faces opposition to a pay rise

Gretchen Friemann

A second major global advisory firm has urged investors in Hibernia REIT to vote against pay increases for top management and to block the re-election of non-executive director, Colm Barrington - heightening the chances of a shareholder rebellion at the listed landlord's AGM later this month.

These latest recommendations from ISS create a united front from two influential proxy firms and pile pressure on Hibernia's board at a time when the trust's share price - in line with much of the sector - continues to trade at a discount to its net asset value.

Earlier this week, Glass Lewis advised clients to oppose "significant" pay rises handed to CEO Kevin Nowlan, and chief financial officer, Thomas Edwards-Moss, and called on shareholders to vote against Mr Barrington's re-election.

Glass Lewis and ISS guide the voting decisions of some of the world's largest fund managers.

Last year, ISS objected to Mr Barrington's proposed re-appointment to Hibernia's board, arguing the prominent businessman, and former chairman of Aer Lingus, holds too many executive-level commitments.

While a majority voted in favour of his re-election, a third of investors voted against the move.

That figure may rise on July 31, when the AGM is due to be held, now that both advisory firms are aligned on this matter.

But ISS went further than Glass Lewis and also highlighted potential time pressures on non-executive chairman, Daniel Kitchen.

Despite supporting his-re-election, the firm emphasises multiple executive roles at smaller listed entities, "raise questions" about "his ability to devote sufficient time" to Hibernia.

The firm was less equivocal about remuneration increases for Mr Nowlan and Mr Edwards-Moss.

ISS said Hibernia had failed to provide a "compelling rationale for the proposed salary increase for the group CEO and for a second 20pc-plus increase in the base salary for the CFO".

In its annual report Hibernia partly justified the changes on the grounds that pay was out of kilter with competitors.

But ISS argued "benchmarking-driven increases are generally not considered appropriate".

Irish Independent

Also in Business