Ocado Shareholders Register Protest Vote Over Executive Pay

Almost a quarter of Ocado Group Plc shareholders voted against the company’s annual remuneration report as investors registered a protest.

The resolution to approve the report at today’s annual meeting was opposed by shareholders owning about 23.5 percent of the stock, Ocado said in a statement. Almost 17 percent vetoed a share-matching award for new chairman Stuart Rose, while 13.6 percent voted against the long-term-incentive plan.

Ocado, the U.K.’s largest online-only grocer, gave Chief Executive Officer Tim Steiner a 29 percent raise for the current year because of his “significant individual performance,” the company said in its annual financial report published March 14. Steiner was the only senior executive to get a salary increase.

The company, which turned reporters away from today’s shareholder meeting, didn’t specify performance targets for the long-term incentive plan in an April 5 document sent to shareholders, citing “their commercial sensitivity.” The goals are “challenging” and include delivering profitable growth over the next three years, according to the document.

Former Chairman Michael Grade, who stepped down today, told the Daily Telegraph that revealing the details was unnecessary as the board had discussed the structure with investors, the newspaper reported May 4. According to the Telegraph, the Association of British Insurers had demanded that Ocado publish the details.

Under the company’s pay plan, Steiner will get 450,000 pounds ($690,000), Ocado said in its annual report. Former Marks & Spencer Group Plc CEO Rose will be paid 200,000 pounds a year.

Bonus Ceiling

Rose has also been awarded 400,000 pounds worth of shares once he takes up his role as chairman as part of a co-investment plan that requires him to invest a year’s fees on appointment. He will pay the nominal value of 9,046 pounds for the shares, which won’t vest until three years after he starts as chairman.

The bonus payment ceiling has been raised to 125 percent of base salary from 100 percent for Steiner and to 100 percent of base salary from 80 percent for executive directors.

Ocado shares rose 7.7 percent to 224.6 pence at the close of trading in London today after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised the stock to buy, saying sales growth is set to accelerate. The closing price was the highest since June 10, 2011.

The stock has almost tripled this year on optimism that a new warehouse will help speed up sales growth and after the company said in March it’s in talks with William Morrison Supermarkets Plc to license some of its Web-shopping technology.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gabi Thesing in London at gthesing@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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