Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of the commodities giant Glencore, is to invest his £70m dividend payment back into the company as he sought to fend off anger about exorbitant executive pay. He will instead reinvest the dividend, increasing his stake in a globe-spanning outfit of which he already holds 16 per cent.
Mr Glasenberg, a somewhat controversial head of a business that has faced questions on human rights, also predicted that Barack Obama will win the next US presidential election – as long as unemployment falls – and gave short shrift to those hoping he will increase Glencore's bid for Xstrata.
He was talking as Glencore reported a 28 per cent leap in revenues for 2011 to $186bn (£117bn). The company's profits were up by 7 per cent to $4bn on the back of higher prices for gold, oil and other commodities.
Some of those profits will go to shareholders in the form of a final dividend of 10 cents a share, of which the Glencore chief's share would be nearly £70m. Mr Glasenberg said he intends to put that money back into the company, as he did with an earlier payment.
Asked if he understood public anger at executive pay, he replied: "I am a big owner of this company.
"Yes, I do get a dividend, but I have forfeited any bonus. I am not taking any long-term bonus.
"I have been part of this company for 28 years. We brought it to the market. Shareholders expect us to give a dividend, otherwise they can't be expected to invest in the business."
He said that taking no bonus shows that "I am purely working for the benefit of shareholders".
While those investors – the top seven are all executives – will be pleased at the dividend, the shares have not performed well.
Floated last summer at 530p, a price that some said indicated the top of a commodities bubble, they were yesterday down 16.65p at 403.35p.
It is not yet clear what the other executives, such as the London-based British boss Alex Beard, will do with their windfalls. Beard's stake is worth more than £1bn. Today's divi fetches £20m.
They may come under pressure to follow the boss's lead and reinvest the dividend payments.
Mr Glasenberg is also trying to force through a $90bn merger with rival Xstrata. Glencore is offering 2.8 of its own shares for every Xstrata share, a price some Xstrata shareholders say is not enough to win their vote.
Questioned whether the amount of cash Glencore has to play with might encourage Xstrata shareholders to up their demands, he said: "Sure everyone can ask for more. Whether we are prepared to pay more is a different story."
Sounding as though he was firmly opposed to increasing the bid, he said: "Why should there be a premium? If it was a cash deal, I would understand them looking for a big premium. It is not a cash deal. Why would shareholders go against the board of Xstrata?"
On the wider economy, he was mostly optimistic.
"America is kicking along better than anyone expected. China continues to grow, commodities are looking strong," he said. "The big question is Europe."
Mr Glasenberg offered that he expects President Obama to get a second term in the White House as long as US unemployment starts to fall.
A vote on the Xstrata deal is still some months away, although Mr Glasenberg intends to meet the company's shareholders soon.
Two of them, Standard Life and Fidelity, have already said that they want a fresh offer, suggesting they do not believe it is a "merger of equals" as Glencore argues.
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