RTZ chairman nets pounds 1.62m in `poor year'

Robert Wilson, executive chairman of RTZ-CRA, the world's largest mining company, saw his remuneration jump by three-quarters to pounds 1.18m last year despite a slump in profits.

As well as a basic salary which rose from pounds 455,000 to pounds 575,000, Mr Wilson cashed in options netting him a profit of nearly pounds 446,800 in 1996. This brought his total remuneration to pounds 1.62m, on top of which his accrued pension entitlement was increased by pounds 73,000 to pounds 307,000 during the year.

The new pay deal was part of a general upgrading of boardroom pay at RTZ-CRA, soon to be renamed Rio Tinto, which saw the total cost rise from pounds 4.32m to pounds 6.92m. Even though 1996 was the first full-year since the merger of the group's UK and Australian arms, pre-tax profits fell from pounds 1.42bn to pounds 1.11bn in the year to December.

In the annual report, Mr Wilson described the year as "a comparatively poor one both for us and for the mining industry" after being hit by lower metal prices and exchange rate movements. But a spokesman justified the increases on the grounds that "directors took on additional responsibilities for the enlarged group in 1996".

Mr Wilson stepped up from the chief executive's position in January following the retirement of the previous non-executive chairman, Sir Derek Birkin.

RTZ merged its operations with those of its 49 per cent- owned associate CRA in December 1995. No money or assets changed hands in the deal.

Last year's remuneration figures were complicated by the decision of the board that no options granted under a previous scheme should remain outstanding after two replacement plans came into force. As a result, executive directors with outstanding options cashed them in during the first four months of 1996.

In addition to his option profits, Mr Wilson picked up a pounds 238,000 bonus from the so-called mining plan, which measures RTZ's performance against 15 other international mining companies, and pounds 350,000 from the "FTSE plan", which pits the group against 47 other top companies in the UK's 100 biggest groups.