It’s a brave soul who takes on the might of Apple. But corporate governance specialist Pirc is giving it a go before the US tech group’s annual meeting on Tuesday. It has advised investors to vote against a resolution on executive pay, partly on the basis that bonus targets may not have been challenging enough. And it is also advising against the reappointment of a number of non-executive directors, including Al Gore – yes, the man who was nearly US president and is a committed environmentalist – because he is apparently no longer independent, having been on the board for more than nine years. However it backs Apple on most of the resolutions which have been put forward by shareholders, and which the company opposes.
In any case, it seems unlikely that Apple chief executive Tim Cook will be losing much sleep over all this. After all, the company is clearly doing the right thing as far as billionaire investor Warren Buffett is concerned, since he recently quadrupled his stake. And Cook already has a lot on his plate. April sees the opening of Apple’s new doughnut-shaped campus building in California – an homage to confectionery-loving Homer Simpson and the cartoon’s Mapple spoof perhaps?
There are also product launches on the horizon, with new iPad models due, and the iPhone 8 supposedly planned for September.
Meanwhile Pirc is not confining its critiques to US tech firms. It also opposes the remuneration report of FTSE 100 software group Sage, whose annual meeting happens to be on the same day as Apple’s. Newcastle or Cupertino? What a choice.
Hang on while George digs out the hard hat
Break out the hi-vis jackets, it’s George Osborne again.
The former chancellor – who used to relish photo opportunities of himself in a construction worker’s outfit at building sites like some wannabe member of the Village People – has not been completely out of sight since moving aside after the Brexit vote. He has become the MP with the highest outside earnings – including being a part-time adviser to fund management group BlackRock – and found time last week to tweet about the Labour party’s poor byelection performance.
Many of his recent public utterances have been about boosting the northern powerhouse, and on Tuesday he will take to the stage at the British Chambers of Commerce’s annual meeting in London on a panel to discuss regional development. (Surely a chance for the hi-vis to reappear?) Also due to enthrall delegates are mayoral candidates Andy Street and Andy Burnham.
The conference will also debate Brexit but, strangely, Osborne is not listed to talk about that. Perhaps there might have been awkward questions about last year’s Project Fear campaign from Osborne and David Cameron.
Capita punishment as relegation zone looms
Last week was a mixed one for Capita, but this one could be just bad. On Monday the outsourcing outfit – which cut its profit forecasts three times at the end of last year – wrote £50m off a number of its historical contracts and wrote down £40m of accrued income.
UBS said: “While the absolute impact is … not that significant, it still points to underperformance in parts of Capita’s portfolio, in our view. [The] key will be if the company can convince investors that this is the worst of the bad news; at this stage we are not sure.”
The changes will hit Capita’s full-year results, due to be announced on Thursday, with Peel Hunt cutting its profit forecast from £515.6m to £475.6m after the news. Last year the company made £585.5m, so it was already on course for a hefty decline.
Despite the write-off, Capita’s share price held up reasonably well last week after an initial fall. But this may not save it from relegation from the FTSE 100 when the latest index changes are announced the day before its figures.
Capita is in danger of dropping into the second tier for the first time since 2004, as the cumulative effects of its recent woes finally catch up with it. Other possible candidates for the drop are Dixons Carphone and easyJet.