Soames opposition puzzles analyst

HE HAS delivered stellar returns for Aggreko shareholders since taking charge, led the Glasgow-based company into the FTSE 100 with a market cap bigger than Sainsbury’s, and overseen its rise to become the world’s largest supplier of temporary power.

But it seems some investors think Rupert Soames is still not the right man for the job.

At the company’s annual general meeting last week, more than 8 per cent of the votes cast were against the re-election of the ebullient chief executive – the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – a higher level of opposition than for any other board member.

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Although almost 92 per cent of votes cast were in favour, the level of opposition raised eyebrows among analysts, given that shares are up from 140p when he took over in 2003 to 2,272p on Friday. It means every £1,000 invested in the company would now be worth more than £16,000.

Paul Jones of Panmure Gordon said the vote was “bizarre” given the success the company has enjoyed. “But then I have seen some strange voting at AGMs. Even if you turned carrots into gold bars some shareholders would vote against you.”

The number of votes cast against Soames – 13.7 million – suggested an investor with a sizeable stake had opposed his re-election. Last year some 6 per cent of votes cast had been against Soames’ re-election but since then the company has continued to make progress with the share price hitting a record high in recent weeks.

Jones said in the past he had known cases of investors voting against particular directors in connection with issues at previous companies or in opposition to countries in which their companies did business.

“It could just be something to do with the fact Soames is quite an unusual chief executive in that he is very jocular and perhaps someone doesn’t like that style,” said Jones.

Many of the 100 shareholders who attended the AGM stayed on for tours of Aggreko’s new £20m manufacturing facility at Dumbarton.