Harvey Norman boss unleashes at AGM
HARVEY Norman faces a potential board spill after shareholders handed the furniture and electronics retailer a second consecutive strike on executive pay.
The company's remuneration report was voted down by 47.6 per cent of proxies at Wednesday's meeting in Sydney, well above the 25 per cent threshold for a strike and forcing a vote on whether to spill the board.
Just over 50 per cent of shareholders rejected the remuneration report at last year's AGM.
Chairman Gerry Harvey lashed out at what he called "agitators" amid disquiet over an apparent lack of independence of directors on a board that has been unchanged since 2007.
"There's this movement out there with agitators who are against anything we do," Mr Harvey said.
"The family business doesn't exist as far as they're concerned."
Mr Harvey engaged in heated exchanges with Stephen Mayne, who is vying for a spot on the board, calling him "absolutely devoid of any common sense".
"He'll get up and talk for the rest of this meeting and it will be bullshit all the way through," Mr Harvey said.
But Wednesday's vote came after Harvey Norman revealed its Australian business has been its second worst performing unit so far this financial year in terms of sales growth.
Australian franchisee comparable sales for the four months to October 31 were just 0.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.
That compares to a 1.7 per cent rise across the whole business, with only Singapore - where sales fell 8.1 per cent - performing worse.
The sluggish local sales growth was announced a day after Australian consumer confidence was shown to have slumped to a four-year low following a clutch of gloomy economic data.
Three Reserve Bank rate cuts since June and federal government tax rebates have failed to stimulate consumer spending, with retail sales growth slowing to a seasonally adjusted 0.2 per cent in September from 0.4 per cent in August. Northern Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia, and Ireland all showed comparable sales growth of more than eight per cent, with New Zealand not far behind at 7.7 per cent.
Malaysia, the remaining territory in which Harvey Norman is active, showed 4.2 per cent growth.
After an early drop on Wednesday, Harvey Norman shares climbed through the meeting and vote on pay and were 0.1 per cent higher at $4.325 at 12.25pm AEDT.