Imperial listens to shareholders over pay deal for chief executive

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Imperial Brands, the company behind Davidoff and Lambert and Butler cigarettes, has moved to stub out a potential shareholder rebellion by withdrawing plans for a bumper pay rise for chief executive Alison Cooper.

The group had tabled proposals that would see Ms Cooper's pay packet rise to a maximum of £8.4 million. She pocketed £5.5 million last year.

Investors were invited to vote on the pay plan at February's annual general meeting (AGM), but several are thought to have objected to the move.

On Thursday, Imperial said that following consultations with shareholders it has withdrawn the resolution ahead of the AGM, adding that metrics approved by investors at the 2015's AGM will continue to apply.

Chairman Mark Williamson said: "We have been actively engaging with shareholders for some time - and while we received considerable support, it is clear that views have changed over that time and that the right course of action now is for the board to withdraw the resolution.

"The board continues to believe that revising the policy is necessary for retaining and attracting the right calibre of talent to ensure the continued sustainable growth of the business and we will re-engage with shareholders to reach a consensus on this important issue."

Under the previous plans, the chief executive's bonus alone could have risen by more than £1 million.

David Haines, chair of Imperial's remuneration committee, had justified the pay hike for Ms Cooper and other executives by saying that their pay was "significantly below the average" for companies of its size.

Last year saw a string of shareholder revolts at AGMs as investors took umbrage with remuneration awards dolled out to top bosses - with firms such as Anglo American and BP facing protest votes.

Earlier in January, fund management giant Blackrock wrote to major listed firms warning them over high pay outs.