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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 00:04 GMT
Boom time for bosses
Lord George Simpson, once of Marconi
Lord Simpson's hand-out sparked a storm
Boardroom pay continues to grow at a blistering pace, despite government moves to clamp down on "fat-cat" salaries, according to new research.

Top 10 total pay increases
Royal Bank of Scotland: 138.2%
Berkeley: 120.3%
HSBC Holdings: 113.3%
Bioglan: 100.5%
Aberdeen Asset Managers: 98.3%
Shaftesbury: 97.9%
Axon: 83.2%
United Business Media: 73.6%
Capital Radio: 67.1%
Singer & Friedlander: 66.6%
Incomes Data Services (IDS) has calculated that basic salaries of chief executives in FTSE 100 companies jumped by an average of 14.8% in the 12 months to July.

When bonuses are added in, that average growth was as high as 18.3%, taking the average FTSE 100 chief executive's pay to a total of more than 960,000.

The report will anger unions and some shareholders, who have been stung by a recent series of controversial pay awards to directors - including some who had conspicuously failed.

The most notorious recent case was a 300,000 pay-off to Lord Simpson, who was ousted as chief executive of ailing tech firm Marconi in September.

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt recently unveiled new rules, which will force companies to put boardroom compensation to an annual shareholder vote.

Telephone numbers

The single biggest gain among large firms was a 321% surge in average board salary at mobile giant Vodafone.

Trade Minister Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewitt wants pay to match performance
IDS said it decided to drop the Vodafone number from its overall reckoning, in order not to skew the figures.

The big gains were not limited to chief executives, IDS found.

Finance and other directors in FTSE 100 firms earned over 570,000, and enjoyed pay growth in the high teens per cent.

And similar gains - albeit from a generally smaller base - were enjoyed in medium-sized FTSE 250 firms.

Ups and downs

Among the 2,000 directors surveyed by IDS, one in four received a total pay rise of more than 25%.

Median FTSE-100 total pay
Chief executive: 962,145
Finance director: 571,000
Other director: 571,210
At the same time, however, one-fifth suffered a fall in earnings.

And in a sign of the recent tech slump, the lowest executive salaries were seen in software and computer services companies.

In the oil and gas business, top executive directors earned basic salaries of an average 384,000 - almost three times as much as their tech-industry peers.

Bothered by bonuses

IDS said that the main reason for the pay surge was hikes in directors' bonus packages, rather than increases in basic pay.

The report was mildly critical of some bonus packages, which often take the form of shares or share options.

In the past, shareholders have tended to prefer share-related bonuses to cash payouts, since they tie director compensation directly to company performance.

But IDS warned that such schemes can often lead to dilution in shareholdings, and the sort of headline-grabbing earnings that excite political anger.

The highest share-option profit in the survey period was 21m.

The fact that such packages are often complicated and opaque was another cause for concern, IDS warned.

Union reaction

Trade unions, too, were quick to criticise.

"We need to see some boardroom restraint, especially in such uncertain economic times," said John Monks, general secretary of the TUC.

"Forcing companies to hold separate votes on remuneration packages at AGMs is a very welcome move, but it will mean little if institutional investors do not cast their votes.

"Ideally we want to see companies including employees on their remuneration committees."

The BBC's Hugh Pym
"The issue of boardroom pay remains a controversial one"
See also:

19 Oct 01 | Business
New rules on 'fat cat' pay
11 Oct 01 | Business
Marconi pay-off is 'outrageous'
29 Aug 01 | Business
Executive pay rises 28%
30 Jul 01 | Business
UK bosses best paid in Europe
20 Jul 01 | Business
Fat cat furore hits Boots and C&W
08 Mar 01 | Business
Labour targets 'fat cat' pay
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