Rough year

Manuka honey maker Comvita has had a rough start to the year.

First it was a poor harvest and trouble in the unofficial trade channels with China and now the company is battling concerns over an outbreak of myrtle rust in Northland.

Comvita shares fell 45c to $6.45 last Friday after chief executive Scott Coulter said the company was gathering information about the myrtle rust situation and it was too soon to speculation on the potential impact on the industry.

Coulter attempted to reassure investors by citing the Australian experience with the fungal infection.

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"We understand when myrtle rust arrived in Australia in 2010, there were concerns about the impact it might have on honey production, however to date there seems to have been no effect."

But shareholders seemed to be feeling nervous with the stock continuing to fall in value this week. However, yesterday the stock closed up 17c at $6.05, although that's still down significantly from the $7.63 they were trading at at the start of the year.

Code irony

NZX investors will be feeling the irony of the stockmarket operator releasing its new code of corporate governance this week.

The code recommends all listed companies reveal the pay details for their chief executives including a break-down of salary, short and long-term incentives and other bonuses in their annual report.

Just three months ago the NZX released its 2016 annual report which showed its top earner got paid between $2.86 million and $2.87m last year - a big jump on 2015 when its highest earner was paid between $1.11m and $1.12m.

Investors can only assume that former chief executive Tim Bennett, who left the company at the end of last year, received a big pay-out.

But the NZX has declined to disclose a further break-down of the top payee's earnings.

Under the new regime which will come into force from October 1 they would have had to reveal the details or cite a good reason why not.

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Perhaps in an attempt to smooth the way forward the NZX has been much more forthcoming about the pay of its new chief executive Mark Peterson.

Peterson who was officially confirmed as the new boss last month (April 10) after being in the acting role since January will receive a salary of $500k which will be reviewable annually, a short-term incentive payment of up to $500k per year and a long-term incentive payment of up to $250k per year based on achieving certain key performance incentives.

Peterson is on a five-year contract with a six-month notice period.

Other majors

The change should force some major companies to include details of their chief executive's pay packages.

In the Herald's 2016 survey of CEO pay
nine of the top 50 companies did not include details about what their top brass earned - including the likes of Fonterra, Infratil and Steel & Tube Holdings.

Some have since changed their approach.

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Perhaps the best part of the recommendation is that remuneration will be reported in a standardised way showing the break-down rather than just one headline figure.

Diversity flavour

The code should also give a better idea about what listed companies are doing to promote gender and cultural diversity within their businesses.

Companies already have to report how many men and women sit on their boards and at executive levels.

But now they will have to have a written diversity policy which must set measurable objectives for achieving diversity and will have to report back on how well the company is meeting them.

If a company fails to make progress on its objectives or continues to set objectives that are low shareholders will be able to get a flavour of a company's true approach to diversity.

Given the number of reports released showing greater gender diversity has a positive influence on a company's bottom line it is something that cannot be ignored.

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