Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

CEO Pay Survey: Salaries stall for NZ's top bosses

The age of austerity has caught up with some of the country's most powerful bosses and for the first time in the eight years of the Business Herald Executive Pay Survey the value of the average chief executive pay packet has dropped.

Packages for chief executives of some of the biggest firms fell by an average of 0.4 per cent in the 2011 financial year compared with the year before, the survey shows.

For the complete list click here or open the attachment at right.

According to Statistics NZ, the mean weekly income for all New Zealanders rose 2.5 per cent in the year to the June 2011 quarter.

While the bosses surveyed are hardly doing it tough - their average pay was $1.5 million - it is a sharp reversal of the trend seen over the last seven surveys.

Between the 2004 and 2010 financial years the average chief executive pay packet ballooned by almost 80 per cent, while the number of chief executives earning more than $1 million rose from six to 26.

Over the same period the average worker's earnings rose 27 per cent from around $33,800 to almost $43,000, according to Statistics NZ.

For the first time in eight years of the Business Herald's executive pay survey, there are no women included in the list.

ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman was not included in the survey as the bank, a subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, is not listed on the NZX.

Shareholders Association chairman John Hawkins said this year's survey showed the party was over for some bosses, as chief executives who failed to meet performance targets were not being rewarded.

"It would appear that, by and large, the numbers are reflecting the financial performance [of firms]," Hawkins said.

"The companies appear to be taking heed of shareholder concerns."

This year's survey looked at the total remuneration awarded in the 2011 financial year to the bosses of most of the NZX-50 firms, a number of state-owned enterprises and dairy co-operative Fonterra.

However, that pay would in many cases include any performance-related bonuses earned in the 2010 financial year, which stretches back to the 2009 calender year.

John McGill, chairman of remuneration consultants Strategic Pay, said the drop in the average pay packet reflected a decline in incentive payments.

Economic conditions since the global financial crisis had made it more difficult for bosses to hit the performance targets required to receive bonuses.

"Things haven't been as pretty as they were in the early 2000s," McGill said.

"I think the interest in incentive pay is still there and programmes are still in place but if you don't have a great year you don't have a great payout."

He added that directors - who make the decisions on executive pay packages - were taking seriously the issues raised by the Occupy protests, which began in New York last year and quickly swelled into a global movement against corporate greed.

Notable declines in this year's survey included Air New Zealand's Rob Fyfe, whose pay packet fell 27 per cent to $1.9 million, and former Warehouse chief executive Ian Morrice, whose pay dropped 30 per cent to $2 million.

Former Pumpkin Patch chief executive Maurice Prendergast's pay fell 29 per cent to $629,000 in 2011. The children's clothing retailer posted a $1.9 million loss for the year.

Hawkins said it was appropriate that chief executives of firms posting strong results, including Port of Tauranga's Mark Cairns, were being rewarded.

Cairns' pay rose 51 per cent to $1.1 million last year.

During the same period Port of Tauranga's net profit rose 54 per cent to $58.4 million, although Cairns' remuneration included long-term performance incentives related to previous financial years.

Restaurant Brands' boss Russel Creedy also got a big pay rise, with his salary lifting 64 per cent on the previous year to $969,999.

Crowning the survey for the first time is former Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier, who stepped down from his role last September and was paid $5 million in the 2011 financial year.

The number two spot is occupied by former Westpac NZ chief executive George Frazis, who was the highest paid boss in last year's survey. Frazis' pay dropped 19 per cent to $4.6 million in 2011.

In third position is former Telecom boss Paul Reynolds, whose pay fell 41 per cent to $3 million.

The dip in the Scotsman's pay was the result of a highly reduced bonus payment earned in the previous financial year when the telco was hit by the disastrous XT network failures. However, Reynolds' pay packet for the present financial year will be boosted by a $3 million short-term incentive payment, which was earned in the 2011 financial year.

A Telecom spokesman confirmed that Reynolds will receive a "final payment" after he leaves the company at the end of this month and details will be published in the annual report.

Survey shows some high-profile disappearances

There were some high-profile departures from the Executive Pay Survey this year.

Former Nuplex chief executive John Hirst - who was the second-highest-paid boss last year - did not feature in the 2012 survey after leaving the speciality chemicals manufacturer in early 2010. His successor, Emery Severin, came in at number seven in this year's survey with a $2.5 million pay packet.

Former GPG executive director Tony Gibbs, who was the fifth-highest-paid boss in last year's survey, also disappeared from the list following his resignation from the company. GPG did not feature as the company no longer has a New Zealand-based executive director following Gibbs' departure.

Former Contact Energy chief executive David Baldwin was not included, following his resignation from the company last March. His successor, Dennis Barnes, was paid $385,000 in the 2011 financial year as he was only chief executive for the last three months of that period.

Baldwin was paid $1.1 million for his services as Contact chief executive in the first nine months of the 2011 financial year.

APN News & Media was not included in the survey because the company - which publishes the Herald - dropped out of the NZX 50 last year as a result of not meeting the stock exchange's minimum liquidity requirements.

Auckland-based fishing company Sanford also dropped out of the NZX 50 and was not included in the survey.

NZX 50 newcomers Chorus and Trade Me did not feature as the 2011 financial year, which the survey is based upon, ended before their listings.

As usual, the NZX 50 property trusts - including Kiwi Income Property Trust and Goodman Property Trust - could not be included in the survey as they are run under management contracts and are not required to disclose their chief executives' pay.

Infratil, which is also run under a management contract, could not be included for the same reason.

Next year's pay survey will feature some new entrants.

Rising tech stocks Xero and Diligent Board Member services will enter the NZX 50 this month, replacing Rakon and Steel and Tube Holdings, which are the lowest ranked constituents of the index.

Salary review: How it works

- The Business Herald's annual Executive Pay Survey looks at chief executives from the largest listed companies plus taxpayer-owned enterprises.

- Property trusts are not recorded.

- Australian companies listed on the stock market here are recorded if they provide details on executives responsible for New Zealand operations.

- Dairy farmer co-operative Fonterra is included.

- Annual reports may specifically detail what the chief executive gets paid or simply list unnamed employees in certain pay brackets.

- There is no standard requirement for reporting chief executive pay in New Zealand, whereas Australian firms provide a detailed breakdown of their top executives.

Any broad review has to make assumptions.


- NZ Herald

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