Vodafone plans to ring changes on bonuses

Vodafone AirTouch, the mobile telephone giant and one of the 10 largest companies in the world, received a clear message from its shareholders last week about the award of a £10m special bonus to chief executive Chris Gent. In a statement, the Remuneration Committee of Vodafone said the company’s pay policy is out of sync with changes in the company.

In the wake of Gent’s performance reward, Vodafone was vehemently criticised for awarding such payments to its senior executives simply on the grounds of Vodafone taking over AirTouch and Mannesmann. It has vowed that such bonuses will not be awarded in future.

The company, whose weighting is about 13 per cent in the UK index of the 100 leading stocks, contributed to the FTSE’s advance in three trading sessions last week. But Vodafone’s share price remains disappointing.

M&S unveils out-of-town factory discount outlets plan

Marks & Spencer, the UK’s biggest clothing retailer, decided last week that if it cannot beat the competition, it may as well join it. It has announced plans to set up discount outlets to appeal to the army of bargain-hunters who have been lured by rivals such as Gap and Next.

M&S said the proposed out-of-town factory units would be able to offer generous discounts of more than 30 per cent to customers on its surplus stock from its high street stores. A spokesperson for the group said it is not the company’s intention to compromise on quality. Rather, it sees it as an opportunity to improve efficiency.

M&S’s share price continues to under-perform. The latest expansion programme is likely to create new jobs.

Railtrack slips back on performance in bad weather

Railtrack, the UK rail networks operator, said the performance of its trains slipped by a significant margin in the quarter to the end of June 2000. The company blames the delays in taking commuters to work and other destinations on bad weather. Railtrack said it is making improvements in its freight services division. The company also said it believes its investment in rail infrastructure is delivering good results.

Railtrack’s share price has recovered well since hitting some difficulty in March this year. Since then it has almost doubled. But last week’s news sent the share price south, shedding some of its recent gains.

Halifax backtracks on question of IF and when

Halifax, the UK financial services group, joined the list of high-profile companies which have experienced problems with their on-line offerings. It announced that it will postpone the launch of Intelligent Finance, or IF, its Web-based bank, until next month to enable more comprehensive testing of the on-line system.

The service was due to start last week but was postponed because of problems with server capacity. The company said about 15,000 customers and 18,000 independent financial advisers have already signed up.

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