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AstraZeneca, Reckitt Benckiser face investor ire over fat executive pay

02 May 2016

The row over fat-cat pay extended to two more UK blue chips, bringing drugmakers AstraZeneca and Reckitt Benckiser in the firing line, following shareholder revolt.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot's 8.4-million payout last year was voted down by over one in 10 investors on Thursday when millions of shareholders turned on the bosses at some of the UK's biggest companies.

Rakesh Kapoor, chief executive of Nurofen and Durex maker Reckitt Benckiser, also finds himself in a vulnerable position ahead of his company's annual meeting next week.

The revolt comes after a series of huge rebellions. The UK Individual Shareholders Society, which is also known as ShareSoc, has called on investors to vote against Kapoor's 23.2 million pay for 2015 which it termed 'indefensibly high'.

Adding to the company's troubles, Reckitt was fined 885,000 for misleading Australian consumers after a court ruled that pills that claimed to target specific ailments, such as migraine or back pain, were in fact identical.

A Reckitt spokesman said, "Nurofen did not intend to mislead customers in Australia" and insisted "Nurofen products in the UK are not affected and continue to be available."

Reckitt Benckiser shares were down 1.5 per cent or 101p at 6654p.

But the most dramatic rebellion happened at the FTSE 250 engineering company Wier Group, when 72 per cent shareholders voted against a plan to allow executives to take home millions in share options regardless of how well the company performed.

Meanwhile, Nurofen in a statement said that it accepted the federal court's verdict, but at the same time claimed that it did not intentionally mislead people.

The statement added that the pain relief range was ''introduced with the intention to provide easy navigation of pain relief options, particularly within the grocery environment where pharmacy support is not available.''

It further stated, ''Nurofen did not intend to mislead consumers, however, we recognise that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Specific Pain Range.''

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