Southern Cross handed first strike over remuneration

Southern Cross received a first strike at its shareholders' meeting in Melbourne on Tuesday with more than 25 per cent of shareholders rejecting its remuneration report.

Southern Cross received a first strike at its shareholders' meeting in Melbourne on Tuesday with more than 25 per cent of shareholders rejecting its remuneration report.

More than 172 million votes were cast against its remuneration report, and about 382 million votes in favour, giving the resolution a "no" vote of more than 30 per cent.

Southern Cross chairman Max Moore-Wilton, pictured, told Fairfax Media: "We will be addressing it [the first strike] and speaking to our investors in detail about any issues which they have."

About 25 per cent of votes were also cast against the re-election of director Chris de Boer.

It is an improvement on last year when 43.4 per cent of votes were cast against the re-election of Mr Moore-Wilton and 39.2 per cent vote against another director, Leon Pasternak.

Mr Moore-Wilton was typically forthright at this year's meeting when asked if there was a cultural problem at the group's radio stations that was responsible for high-profile gaffes and controversies, including the royal prank call.

"These incidents were unfortunate, no doubt about that," Mr Moore-Wilton told shareholders. "But in the immortal words of someone whose identity I cannot recall, 'shit happens."'

A report from the Australian Shareholders' Association said it was not aware of any other ASX200 company "where a range of directors have been so unpopular with investors". The ASA was undecided on the remuneration report vote before the meeting but recommended a vote against the re-election of Mr de Boer.

It said one of the sore points for investors has been the excessive fees paid to Macquarie Group, which listed the media group in 2005 and is its largest shareholder with a 26.5 per cent stake.

Southern Cross has also had the misfortune of being tied to the Ten Network for most of its regional television stations, which have performed poorly as a result.

If Southern Cross receives a second strike at next year's shareholder meeting, with a no vote on its remuneration report of more than 25 per cent, it will be forced to hold a resolution to spill its board.

Southern Cross chief executive Rhys Holleran told investors at the meeting the first quarter had traded positively compared with last year but advertising was failing to maintain its election boost.

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