UPDATE 1-WH Smith moves to pacify investors angered over executive pay

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June 24 (Reuters) - WH Smith said on Thursday it would talk to investors while framing its pay policy for next year after nearly a third of the British retailer’s shareholders voted against directors’ compensation at a general meeting held in January.

Executive pay and rewards have been under investor scrutiny in Britain after companies took hefty government aid during the pandemic and furloughed staff to save cash. Several companies, including Morrisons and AstraZeneca, have faced significant revolt or have had their policies rejected.

“While (the resolution) to approve the directors’ remuneration report was passed, we acknowledge that a significant minority of shareholders, approximately 33%, chose not to support this resolution,” WH Smith said in a statement.

When shareholders rejected the resolution in January, WH Smith said the primary concern was around a 25,000 pounds ($34,780.00) increase in Chief Executive Officer Carl Cowling’s package in July last year.

The FTSE-250 listed company had then said the hike was in line with a policy approved in 2019, which included the option to raise Cowling’s annual pay by that amount for three years after his appointment, based on performance.

It said it had spoken to shareholders before the meeting in January and the increase to Cowling’s salary, which was scheduled for April, would be postponed until an “appropriate” time, but was unlikely to be implemented in the fiscal year ending Aug. 31.

The retailer, whose shops selling newspapers, sweets and crisps are a fixture of UK high streets, hospitals and airports, said on Thursday it would also talk to advisory bodies before putting a new policy to vote.

$1 = 0.7188 pounds Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila