Shareholders complain over housebuilder’s $850m bonus for top brass

Persimmon Homes, a UK listed housebuilder, is set to award its senior management shares worth £600m over the next five years.

The main beneficiary will be chief executive Jeff Fairburn, who could earn more than £100m.

Mike Fox, head of sustainable investment at shareholder Royal London Asset Management, told the BBC that the payments were too high "in all circumstances" and gave away too much of the company.

Other critics commented that Persimmon executives were being rewarded simply for being in charge during a recovery in the housing market.

When the scheme was put in place, the housing market had begun to recover from the 2008 crash, and some 150 managers were given the opportunity to earn shares worth up to 10% of the company’s total value, provided they hit targets on returning money to investors.

The company recently said it was "running well ahead" of those targets, and analysts say it is likely the scheme will pay out in full. Persimmon shares have more than tripled in value since the incentive plan was put in place, rising from £6.20 to about £20.

Persimmon is the third largest housebuilder in the UK, and a member of the FTSE 100.

It announced in February that it would raise pay outs to shareholders after a 34% rise in underlying profit, boosted by strong consumer demand and government support.

It said that it would increase dividends by 45%, spending an extra £860m to bring the total to £9 a share by 2021. It will return 110p to shareholders as an interim payment in April.

The BBC comments that the disclosure of the size of the payments is likely to stoke anger in the UK over the level of executive compensation.

There has been a string of investor rebellions against pay deals this year, and in April a majority of shareholders voted against a £14m package for BP boss Bob Dudley. Shareholders cannot veto amounts paid, but do have the final say on companies’ remuneration policies.

Image: Jeff Fairburn (left) announcing a drive to attract former soldiers to housebuilding (Persimmon)

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  1. It’s the perpetual question: A fair reward for a very high standard of achievement? Most would say yes! However just who is sufficiently qualified and impartial to pronounce on what amount is indeed fair and not in any way excessive? I think that the legal profession tends to prefer not to be involved in such matters – simply because of its controversially public nature!

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