Lowy says pay backlash a “misunderstanding”

westfieldWestfield’s billionaire chairman, Frank Lowy, has blamed shareholder misunderstanding for a backlash against executive salaries at his Australian shopping centre group.

Scentre avoided a first strike against its remuneration report but there was a sizeable 13.65 per cent vote against it.

A listed company has to put forward a spill motion of board positions if 25 per cent of shareholders vote against executive salaries for two years in a row.

Lowy said confusion about the creation of Scentre in June 2014 had possibly sparked a sizeable no vote.

“Maybe there’s some misunderstanding about (what) some of the executives got paid, which was adjusted at separation between Westfield Corporation and Scentre Group,” he told reporters after Scentre’s inaugural annual general meeting in Sydney.

“I think it’s one or two shareholders who constituted the vote against.”

CEO, Peter Allen, was paid $10.2 million during 2013/14, before Westfield’s Australian and New Zealand assets were hived off into a new company, Scentre.

Allen had been paid almost $6 million in 2012/13, when he had been the old Westfield Group’s CFOr, Scentre’s annual report showed.

Lowy also insisted he would remain focused on Australia, even though Westfield Corporation oversees 44 shopping malls in the US and the UK.

“I have no plans to move out of Australia,” he said.

“I’m the chairman of Scentre Group … and I’m totally devoted to its success.”

Earlier, he told shareholders a 30 per cent jump in the Australian population, from 23 million to 30 million, would be beneficial.

“These people will be shoppers, and they will be shopping at Westfield shopping centres,” he said.

Scentre enjoyed a strong March quarter, with comparable specialty store sales up 5.8 per cent from the previous period.

It is also forecasting growth in its funds from operations of 3.5 per cent and a dividend increase to 20.9 cents a share for the year, after paying 10.2 cents for the second half of last year.

Scentre shares were 5.5 cents, or 1.5 per cent weaker, at $3.705 by 1358 AEST.


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