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Westfield Walloped By Shareholders Over Exec Pay

The owners of Westfield shopping centres have suffered a significant vote against its remuneration report with shareholders incensed at the proposed payments to senior executives.

Scentre Group which owns the shopping centres where retailers such as JB Hi Fi, Big W, The Good Guys and Target trade has faced a tough time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

51 per cent of proxies voted against its remuneration report, reflecting widespread dissatisfaction with how it has structured payments to top executives.

Proxy houses, ISS and CGI Glass Lewis advised against the report.

A second “strike” next year could trigger a board spill for the Company who is facing a rent battle with landlords.

A proposal for an issue of performance rights to CEO Peter Mr Allen also drew a hefty 27.2 per cent protest vote but was passed. There was also a 9.6 per cent vote of against the election of director Margie Searle according to the Australian.

Earlier, chairman Brian Schwartz said the company had expected a substantial protest vote.

He defended Scentre’s pay structure, saying top executives and the board had cut their payments by 20 per cent at the height of the pandemic for three months.

The is the same strategy that Harvey Norman directors adopted in the early days of COVID-19, they then came back and took millions out of the mass retailer who failed to return millions in JobKeeper payments.

The board made one-off payments last year of equity-based retention payments to top executives including Mr Allen who received close to $2.9m.

Mr Allen confirmed that Westfield’s 42 shopping centres were on a recovery path after the coronavirus crisis.

He also reaffirmed distribution guidance given at the start of the year and reported healthy cash flow momentum this year, with gross rental cash inflow for the March quarter running at in excess of $600m.

Scentre’s operating profit and FFO for 2020 were about $765m or 14.7c per security, which included a credit charge of $304m, relating to the financial impact of the pandemic.

Despite pressure from major chains for turnover-based rents, Mr Allen said the structure of Westfield’s leases had not changed and remained based on the mutual agreement to pay a fixed-base rent.

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