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Vodafone is facing a further flashpoint with its investors as its critics warn they could vote against the re-election of some directors even after last week?s promise of a ?9bn ($17bn) return of cash to shareholders.
Some of the group?s largest investors said on Sunday they were still dissatisfied with the company?s performance and would pay particularly close attention to the annual report, due out in the next few weeks, for any sign that their concerns have not been reflected in executives? remuneration.
Unusually, all the directors are up for re-election at its annual meeting on July 25, and Standard Life, one of its 10 largest shareholders, has already said it would be ?considering our voting position very carefully?.
Vodafone would not comment on a report on Sunday that investors were planning to target Arun Sarin, its chief executive, and non-executive directors including Michael Boskin, J?rgen Schrempp and Luc Vandevelde, but it is not thought the company has been notified of any concerted shareholder opposition of this nature.
Vodafone will hold further meetings with investors this week following its full-year results last Tuesday, at which it reported a record ?14.9bn pre-tax loss, dragged down by heavy write-offs on the acquisitions it made at the height of the telecoms bull market.
Shareholders said they were prepared to give Mr Sarin more time to demonstrate he can pull off the new strategy for dealing with the company?s deteriorating operational performance.
Although they broadly welcomed the return of funds announced last week, they said the current round of shareholder meetings were focusing on Vodafone?s ability to execute the strategy and restore growth in its core European markets and beyond.
The publication of the annual report could provide a fresh catalyst for concern, however. Shareholders are already divided about the company?s proposed changes to its pay policy for senior executives.
Vodafone wrote to shareholders in April, requesting feedback on plans to cut the earnings growth performance targets on share option awards, from 8-16 per cent to 5-10 per cent.
It also proposed to link directors? bonuses to four performance measures, including revenues.