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Interserve CEO faces shareholder revolt over pay

Interserve’s shareholders have been advised to vote against chief executive Debbie White’s 125 per cent bonus.

Shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis has said it cannot recommend support for Ms White’s pay deal ahead of Interserve’s annual general meeting tomorrow.

Its objection is based on Ms White receiving a higher base salary than previous CEO Adrian Ringrose, and her being awarded the maximum annual bonus for four months’ work last year.

“We cannot recommend shareholders support this proposal at this time,” the advisory firm said.

Ms White’s annual salary is £650,000, 11.1 per cent higher than her predecessor Mr Ringrose.

Glass Lewis said Ms White’s salary should instead be increased over time to reflect “increases in experience and knowledge”.

Ms White received £216,667 for four months’ work between 1 September and 31 December last year, along with a 125 per cent bonus worth £270,089.

The advisers recommended shareholders vote in favour of the other 21 proposals at the meeting tomorrow.

An Interserve spokesman said: “Interserve’s Remuneration Committee set very specific strategic bonus objectives for Debbie White which were met.

”These objectives were designed to focus on critically important tasks essential for ensuring stability and starting the process of rebuilding the business.”

Since Ms White took over at Interserve she has pursued a cost-cutting strategy to try to boost profit at the contractor.

Earlier this month the company confirmed the sale of its Edinburgh Haymarket site for £50m.

Interserve reported a £244m pre-tax loss in its 2017 accounts and forecast that its net debt could rise to as much as £680m during 2018.

Energy-from-waste projects have created mounting losses in recent years.

The company is in the process of closing out contracts on six remaining projects, which Ms White hopes will be complete by the end of 2018.

A settlement with Pennon over a Glasgow EfW for which Interserve was contractor until November 2016 has yet to be agreed, but Pennon has said it expects to receive £68.7m from Interserve.

Interserve’s construction arm is also expected to shrink over the next few years and Construction News revealed today that its London construction director has left the business.

Interserve’s AGM last year saw 99.8 per cent of shareholders vote in favour of the company remuneration report.

Shareholders across the wider industry have become more stringent on executive pay over the past year, however, with the £75m bonus paid to Persimmon’s CEO being opposed by almost half of its investors.

At Balfour Beatty’s AGM last month, CEO Leo Quinn saw almost 14 per cent of shareholders vote against his £5.4m pay deal for 2017.

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