Reckitt chief escapes backlash over £4m salary package

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The Independent Online

Reckitt Benckiser, behind the Mr Sheen, Vanish, Dettol and Lemsip brands, yesterday said profits rose 28 per cent in the first quarter, as it brushed aside shareholder disquiet over the £4m pay package for its chief executive.

Reckitt Benckiser, behind the Mr Sheen, Vanish, Dettol and Lemsip brands, yesterday said profits rose 28 per cent in the first quarter, as it brushed aside shareholder disquiet over the £4m pay package for its chief executive.

The City had been expecting a major backlash against the remuneration report at the company's annual meeting in Heathrow yesterday. Pirc, the corporate governance lobby, had calculated that Bart Becht took home shares and share options equal to nine times his base pay last year. This came on top of salary, bonus and pension contributions worth £4.2m. The size and structure of the pay scheme, which attempts to emulate pay awards in the US, caused the Association of British Insurers to issue a "red top" note on the pay structure - it's most severe warning against a company resolution.

Despite the heavyweight opposition ahead of the meeting, only 16 per cent of shareholders yesterday voted against the pay awards. Speaking afterwards, a number of shareholders said they were happy with Mr Becht's pay as long as he continued to deliver results for the company. But they were disappointed he chose Heathrow as the venue for the annual meeting, which they took as a sign that he is not keen to meet individual shareholders.

Benckiser shares have nearly doubled in the past five years. New versions of its products, such as Veet hair removal products and Lysol cleaners, are selling well, and sales in the group were up 8 per cent in the past quarter to £920m.

Fabric-care sales rose 14 per cent at constant exchange rates to £256m, thanks to the success of Vanish Oxi carpet cleaner. Health and personal-care sales rose 20 per cent and sales of other household cleaners rose 10 per cent. Mr Becht said he expects earnings to rise at least 10 per cent this year and sales to gain at least 5 per cent at constant rates of exchange. The effect of the weak dollar, however, may hurt results.

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