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Crown sees solid start to year
Crown sees solid start to year

UPDATE 12.10pm: Casino operator Crown has survived a shareholder vote on executive pay which could have led to a board spill.

Shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of Crown's executive pay report for the 2011/12 financial year, despite Crown making no changes to its executive pay policy.

More than 93 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of the company's remuneration report at its annual general meeting.

At last year's meeting, 55 per cent of shareholders voted against Crown's pay report, delivering the company its first “strike”.

A “no” vote involving at least 25 per cent of shareholders on two occasions would result in the majority of board positions being vacated and put up for re-election.

Chairman James Packer told shareholders the company had made no change to its remuneration policy.

Instead it had focused on providing a clearer explanation of its pay structure.

"We've provided a lot more extensive explanation and rationale behind our long-term incentive scheme and the actual performance against the relevant set hurdles,” Mr Packer told the meeting.

He said the board was confident that its remuneration policy and structure remained suitable.

Chief executive Rowen Craigie was paid $6.875 million in the 2011/12 financial year and his base salary remained stable at $2.98 million.

His pay totalled $7.7 million in 2010/12, due to the inclusion of a $1 million benefit from the revaluation of share-based long-term incentives.

Mr Packer jokingly responded to a question from the Australian Shareholders Association (ASA) over concerns that Mr Craigie's base salary was significantly higher than that awarded to chief executives of larger companies such as the Commonwealth Bank, BHP Billion and Rio Tinto.

"I agree he's overpaid, but I can't get him to do it for any less,” Mr Packer said.

He also thanked the ASA for voting in favour of this year's remuneration report.

Executive deputy chairman John Alexander's total remuneration package remained steady at $1.5 million in fiscal 2012, while chief financial officer Ken Barton received a total of $3.03 million.

Earlier, Mr Craigie said Crown's revenue, excluding VIP program play, was up eight per cent in the first 17 weeks of the financial year compared to the same period a year ago.

Non gaming revenue was 5.9 per cent higher.

Mr Craigie said normalised VIP program play revenue growth was encouraging, given the recent slowdown in Macau.

Mr Packer also told shareholders how Crown was poised to take advantage of the booming Asian outbound tourism market by improving its facilities across Australia.

He said given the sluggish nature of outbound tourism from traditional markets such as Britain and the United States, China was critical to Australia's tourism future.

Australia's share of China's total outbound travel had fallen from 1.3 per cent in 2001 to 0.8 per cent in 2011.

"Whilst over the last 10 years there has been a significant increase in Chinese tourist arrivals to Australia, peaking at over 500,000 last year, Australia has the opportunity to do much better given the size and growth of China's outbound tourism,” Mr Packer said.

Crown shares were off three cents to $9.40 at 12.10pm.