Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ wire agency

Directors' fees set to rise at Opus

Opus chairman Kerry McDonald's fee may rise by $10,000 to $120,000. Photo / Dean Purcell
Opus chairman Kerry McDonald's fee may rise by $10,000 to $120,000. Photo / Dean Purcell

The often vexed question of directors' fees looks set to get an airing when Opus International Consultants holds its annual meeting on Wednesday.

The engineering consultancy is seeking to increase its directors' fees by $42,500, or 12 per cent, to $400,000 a year, effective from January 2012.

That would boost chairman Kerry McDonald's fee by $10,000 to $120,000, and give a $5000 lift in directors' fees to $60,000.

The original pool was set in 2007 when shares were $1.65 apiece. Opus shares ended last week at $2.15.

Unlike some companies, Opus is not likely to meet much opposition over fees from shareholders because of its track record.

In 2011 the company's net profit came to $24.5 million, up 11.5 per cent compared with the previous year. It has managed to increase its earnings each year since listing in 2007.

The New Zealand Shareholders' Association is not against increases in directors fees and executive salaries but wants them to be in line with company performance.

Chairman John Hawkins said the association generally supported fee increases and only occasionally opposed them.

"I don't think that anyone has an issue with sharing the rewards among the participants," he said.

"Where we do have a problem is when a company is performing poorly and the directors' fees and chief executive salaries are out of kilter with that."

Last year the association opposed three companies' plans to raise their fees.

It successfully opposed fee increases for resins company Nuplex, and when fishing company Sanford went about raising its fees, the association succeeded in having the planned increase cut by half.

In the third case, the association was unsuccessful in contesting a fee increase for SkyCity's board.

Opus, whose origins lie in the former Ministry of Works, has strong links with Malaysia.

The company, which has a market capitalisation $314.7 million, is 61 per cent owned by Malaysia's Opus Group Berhad, which is a unit of UEM Group Berhad, an engineering based conglomerate.

UEM is a wholly-owned unit of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, an investment arm of the Malaysian Government.

- APNZ

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