Belfast Telegraph

Third of investors vote against Drax Group's executive pay report

Drax Group has been dealt a bloody nose by investors after a third voted against the company's executive pay report.

The owner of the UK's largest power station saw 33.65% oppose the report on remuneration at the annual general meeting, amid concerns over share awards for finance director Will Gardiner.

The director's remuneration policy, which outlines the framework for executive pay until 2020 , also received 22.97% votes against.

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) urged investors to object to the remuneration report in the run-up to the meeting, flagging Mr Gardiner's bonus matching awards as "excessive".

The finance chief is in line to receive 358,567 shares worth £1.355 million under the company's bonus matching plan, which will vest in 2019 and be based on the company share value that year.

Mr Gardiner's total pay reached £971,000 for 2016, while chief executive Dorothy Thompson's total pay rose 26% to £1.5 million for the period.

In a statement following the AGM, a spokesman for Drax said: "All payments and awards to directors were in line with the remuneration policy. 99.99% of shareholders voted in favour of receiving and adopting the annual report and audited accounts.

"A conditional share award made under an old remuneration policy, which some shareholders had raised concerns about, has been replaced with a new policy.

"This was supported by a large majority of our shareholders. During the preparation of the new policy we engaged extensively with our shareholders to ensure it was aligned with their views."

Drax Group generates 7% of the UK's electricity and owns a coal and biomass-fired power plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

Around 20 to 30 protesters greeted shareholders as they arrived for the AGM at the Grand Hotel and Spa in York.

The demonstration was one of four organised by anti-coal and biomass campaigners to coincide with the York meeting.

The other three were planned outside offices of Drax's two largest investors in London and also at the port in Liverpool where the protesters said wood pellets arrive from the United States to be burnt at the power station.

In York, the demonstrators waved placards, chanted anti-biomass burning slogans and handed out leaflets to locals and tourists. They were watched by two police officers.

Speaking outside the hotel, Anne Harris, from the Coal Action Network, said: "We are protesting against Drax because they burn coal from the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia where indigenous people are losing their land and also losing the water because the coal mine takes all the water.

"And it produces lots of dust and they're breathing in that dust and it's causing respiratory problems for the people who live in the area."

Ms Harris said: "Drax claim that burning biomass is better but, in reality, biomass produces carbon dioxide. It produces it now and we need to be preventing runaway climate change. We need to stop global warming."

Drax announced a £340 million deal in December to buy gas and electricity supplier Opus Energy as part of a strategy overhaul.

The firm aimed to combine Opus with its existing Haven Power provider to create Britain's fifth biggest non-domestic energy retailer.

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