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Freightways shareholders scrutinise 7.5% rise in directors fees; trading update shows solid growth

The increase will mean non-executive directors get an extra $9000 each annually.

Fiona Rotherham
Thu, 29 Oct 2015

A 7.5% increase in directors' fees came under scrutiny by Freightways [NZX: FRE] shareholders today – a trend evidenced at other annual general meetings this year – as the company gave a first-quarter trading update showing profit rose 13%.

Shareholders in the logistics and courier business were asked at the annual meeting in Auckland to increase the pool of directors' fees by $36,000 to $484,000 following an independent market review to bring non-executive directors’ remuneration in line with other companies.

Chairwoman Sue Sheldon said the Auckland-based company does an annual review of directors' fees, with the incremental increase typically around 2-3% but the independent market review conducted this year showed the remuneration had "fallen a little behind" that paid by others.

The increase will mean non-executive directors get an extra $9000 each annually while the chairwoman's fee, which amounted to $146,867 in the 2015 financial year, will remain the same. The three non-executive directors in 2015 were each paid in the range of $69,000 to $79,000.

Shareholders Association spokesman Des Hunt said the association was unimpressed with independent market reviews of director fees in general. "We have found they are mostly pathetic," he said. But the increase in directors’ fees Freightways was asking for was reasonable given how well the company was performing, he said.

Ms Sheldon said based on the opening share price yesterday, the total shareholder return since Freightways listed in 2003 had been 454%.

In a trading update released today for the three months ended September 30, Freightways reported operating revenue up 10% to $127 million, once five extra trading days were excluded. Net profit rose 13% $13.5 million.

Managing director Dean Bracewell said it was a strong start to the 2016 year with its information management division, in particular, showing earnings before interest taxation and amortisation growth of 33% in the first quarter.

"This division's performance, as expected, demonstrated resilience to the economic cycle, with growth being achieved in both Australia and New Zealand," Mr Bracewell said.

Freightways never gives full-year profit or revenue guidance but Mr Bracewell said he expected increased profit for the full-year, although at a slower growth rate than the stellar performance in the 2015 financial year when profit rose 4%.

While express package business was expected to continue to expand, higher growth was expected from the information management market where privacy of business information continued to be a primary driver of demand for secure document destruction services, he said.

One shareholder questioned the diversity of the company at board and senior management level with a row of "suits" evident at the annual meeting.

Ms Sheldon, who also chairs the Global Women network which champions diversity, said it was "a question dear to my heart." She is the sole female director on the board.

The recent appointment of Paymark chief executive Mark Rushworth had lowered the average age of the board and both men and women in equal numbers had been short-listed for that board role, she said.

Within the freight industry generally there were a lack of women in management roles but Sheldon anticipated over time more women rising through the ranks in Freightways, which had a policy of promoting from within. The 10-year average length of tenure for the senior executive team made it challenging to bring new people through quickly, she said.

Mr Bracewell said 39% of the decision-making roles in New Zealand and Australia were held by women. "Although at the senior team level we don't have female representation, we're not lacking input from both genders in decision-making within the business," he said.


Fiona Rotherham
Thu, 29 Oct 2015
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Freightways shareholders scrutinise 7.5% rise in directors fees; trading update shows solid growth