Anger at break-up plans...Shareholders gave the BT board the customary roasting today at the company's AGM in Nottingham. New chairman Sir Christopher Bland's bonus was a cause for complaint, as shareholders - who have seen their holdings lose 60 per cent of their value - were asked to approve a generous remuneration package. Bland's salary goes to £820,000 from £780,000, with a maximum 100 per cent bonus - not bad for a part time job, but small change compared to Chris Gent's £6.8m pay package. BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield confessed to the assembled shareholders that "The industry as a whole is probably over-invested," but blamed the company's share performance on the troubles of the industry as a whole. That was as near as they came to an apology for the company's falling share price, slashed credit rating and suspended benefits. Bonfield added: "As part of [the] general situation, BT's share price has fallen. However, over the past year, we have outperformed all our major UK competitors,
"Vodafone, Energis, Telewest, C&W, Colt, Kingston and Thus have all seen larger falls than us. And by a considerable margin in some cases," he added. "We've also done better than most of our main European rivals - in Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands."
Meanwhile, the project of reducing BT's debt mountain and freeing the company of non-core assets continues. BT today announced the likely sale of its stake in Italian mobile operator, Blu. Telefonica has been suggested as a buyer, and Germany's T-Mobile has also declared its intention of boosting its European footprint. Since Bland took over, the company has sold stakes in Japan Telecom, Spain's Airtel, and Canada's Rogers Wireless, as well as the directories division, Yell, and some of its property portfolio.