Almost a third of Ryanair’s shareholders rebelled against the budget airline’s pay report after its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, earned more despite the company suffering its first profit fall for five years.
At Ryanair’s annual meeting at its head office in Dublin, 21.4% of shareholders who voted opposed the pay report. Including votes withheld, the protest was 31%.
O’Leary was paid a salary and bonus of €1.75m (£1.37m) last year, up from €1.27m the year before. Ryanair’s profit after tax fell 8% to €523m in the year to 31 March, after fares dropped 4% and fuel costs rose.
O’Leary’s deputy, Howard Millar, said management had been “asleep at the wheel” while rival easyJet had responded more quickly to customers’ changing demands.
Pirc, the shareholder advisory consultant, recommended voting against the pay report. It criticised a lack of information about targets used for annual bonuses and long-term incentives.
A Ryanair spokeswoman said the airline had no unhappy shareholders and that Pirc did not contact the company before making its recommendation.
She added: “We will continue to act upon the overwhelming majority view of our shareholders.”
The vote was the second year running Ryanair had suffered a rebellion on pay. At last year’s meeting more than a third of votes were cast against a new share option plan.
After admitting its mistakes, Ryanair has staged a fightback by promising to treat customers better, reduce charges and restrictions and cut fares. It has also launched a business class service.
At the AGM, O’Leary raised Ryanair’s annual traffic forecast by one million to 87 million customers and said net profit would be near the top of expectations.
“Our customers and our shareholders have responded favourably to our improving customer experience, our better digital platform and the positive initial uptake of our business plus service,” he said.
There was a sizeable protest against the board’s independent director, James Osborne. Including withheld votes, 15.2% of shareholders failed to support his re-election.
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