pounds 1m for Wickes chief despite record losses

NIGEL COPE

Henry Sweetbaum, the chairman of the Wickes DIY group, is set to earn more than pounds 1m again this year, even though the company announced record losses of pounds 258m yesterday.

Under the terms of the company's long term incentive scheme, Mr Sweetbaum is expected to receive a bonus payment of pounds 750,000 for the 12 months to December. The payment is linked to the company's share price performance over the past three years. It is likely to push his pay this year beyond pounds 1m, making him one of the highest paid retailers in Britain.

It follows a pounds 673,000 bonus last year which, on top of his pounds 297,000 annual salary and pounds 130,000 annual bonus, took Mr Sweetbaum's salary for the year to December 1994 to pounds 1.1m.

Other Wickes directors are also set to earn high bonuses. Michael Corner, chairman of Wickes properties, and finance director Trefor Llwellyn are both expected to receive bonuses of pounds 437,000.

Wickes made a provision of pounds 1.8m in its 1994 accounts to cover the maximum bonuses that could be paid under the scheme.

Wickes shares started 1992 at 56p. They closed 4p down yesterday at 121p.

The payments are certain to spark controversy, particularly after the record losses announced yesterday. However, a company spokesman said the bonuses related to previous years, not just last year.

Wickes' losses stem from the sale of Wickes Hunter Timber division to a Finnish company and costs relating to the sale of the Builder's Mate chain. Total costs of the disposals were pounds 269m - of which pounds 186m was a goodwill write-off relating to the original purchase of Hunter Timber in 1988. The company stressed that the write-offs had no impact on the cash resources or financial position of the group.

In the year to 31st December, Wickes sales increased from pounds 733m to pounds 834m. Profits on continuing operations, which is the Wickes DIY chain, were flat at pounds 36m. Sales in the UK increased by 29 per cent with like- -for- like sales up a healthy 11 per cent. Wickes now has 153 stores in five countries. The group will add a further 20 new UK outlets this year taking total to 130.

Investment Column, page 18

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