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QR National pay deal backed by Qld govt

Reported by AAP
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
World's kookiest billionairesBillionaires and their eccentric and outlandish publicity stunts.

Freight giant QR National has escaped a "first strike" from shareholders over executive pay and won approval to change its name to Aurizon Holdings.

Shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of QR's name change and executive pay report at the company's sometimes heated annual general meeting on Wednesday.

Investors also gave a tick to plans for QR to buy back $1 billion worth of stock in a move that significantly reduces the Queensland government's 34 per cent stake in the company.

The most controversial item on the meeting's agenda was the company's executive pay report, about which some investors were worried about how accounting changes had been used to increase bonuses.

But just 14 per cent of shareholder proxy votes at the meeting were lodged against the report.

Support for the report from the Queensland government prevented QR receiving a "first strike", which requires a quarter of shareholders to vote against a company's remuneration report.

The Australian Shareholders Association argued that a "first strike" could have occurred if the government had voted against the deal.

Shareholder activist Stephen Mayne told the meeting the government's backing of the remuneration was a disgrace following its decision to axe 14,000 public sector jobs in the September budget.

"That's been irresponsible and totally contrary to their message that they're sending to the rest of the Queensland community about having to sack workers," he said.

QR chairman John Prescott said the company had not given its executives a "free kick", thanks to accounting changes.

"Contrary to what you may read in the media, these are not simply end-of-year adjustments," he said.

"Quite frankly, they're what we expect management to do to enhance shareholder value."

Meanwhile, a proposal to change QR National's name on December 1 to Aurizon Holdings was less controversial with 99.24 per cent in favour, despite concerns from shareholders the name change could hurt the share price or be confused with a Canadian mining company.

Shareholders were told the name combined the words Australian and Horizon and would ensure the public no longer confused the company with state-owned Queensland Rail, which it split from during privatisation in November 2010.

A separate vote on QR buying back 288 million Queensland government shares for $1.5 billion, allowing it to reduce its stake in QR to 18 per cent, also passed with 99.65 per cent of proxies in favour.

Earlier, chief executive Lance Hockridge told shareholders haulage volumes in the first four months of 2012-13 were down 1 per cent from the same period in 2011-12.

The fall was attributable to lower volumes in Queensland, as those in NSW were higher.

He expected full-year coal haulage volumes to be at the lower end of the company's previous guidance of 195-205 million tonnes.

The response to QR's voluntary redundancy program had been stronger than expected, he added, with more than 820 people leaving, rather than the previously advised 750.

That takes the total number of departed staff since the company was privatised in 2010 to about 1600, leaving about 8200 staff.

QR National shares added one cent to finish at $3.49.

25/10/2014 08:15Sydney, Australia. 25 October,2014
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