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Yowie investors reject exec pay packets but board survives

Yowie investors have rejected executives’ pay packets for the fourth year running, but once again have decided not to boot out the troubled chocolatier’s current directors.

Yowie’s 2019 remuneration report was rejected at the annual general meeting in Sydney on Wednesday, with 41.2 per cent of shareholders not satisfied the company’s leadership deserved their pay packets after another year in the red.

The vote was above the 25 per cent threshold required to hand the board a ‘strike’ – repeating the outcome of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 AGMs – though a resolution to hold a spill vote only received the backing of one in five investors. 

Wednesday’s meeting was not without any joy for shareholders, who approved the return of $4.35 million – or 2.0 cents per share – as promised by the board when it was locked in a bitter takeover battle with private equity firms earlier this year. 

Shares in the Perth-based company climbed by as much as 5.3 per cent to 7.9 cents on Wednesday. 

Chairman Louis Carroll was re-elected to the board despite 39.5 per cent of votes against his appointment, while director Neville Basset also remains in place despite 24.5 per cent against.

Yowie has wrestled with investor discontent for years, stumbling through a series of poor financial results and diminishing sales since the brand’s re-emergence in 2012 and setback-riddled relaunch in the US.

Yowie’s chocolates rose to prominence in Australia in the late 1990s thanks to the collection of small plastic wildlife figurines contained within. 

But the brand’s new owners have had to fend off a number of takeover tilts and – under pressure by the arrival of Kinder Surprise in the US – have repeatedly failed to turn the ship around. 

Its FY19 loss widened from $US5.2 million to $US5.5 million after it was forced to make a $US500,000 impairment in September, when its assets were found to be worth more than its $A16.9 million market capitalisation.

The company has however reported signs of improvement in the first quarter of FY20, with net sales of $US4.5 million up 23 per cent on a year ago thanks to the addition of a Bites sharebag in Australia, gummies products in the US, and increasing distribution. 

Earnings loss for the quarter was $US22,000, an improvement on a loss of $US178,00 a year ago, and a better result than the previous eight quarters.

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