Executive salaries skyrocketing

Salaries of top executives rose 18 percent between 2011 and 2012 while ordinary workers had to make do with less than two percent

Executive salaries at some of Denmark’s most valuable companies are rising more than ten times faster than those of ordinary workers according to a new study from consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

PwC examined the salaries of executives from the 20 most traded companies on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, the C20 (currently only 19 companies as AP Moller Maersk is listed twice) and concluded that the average executive salary rose 18 percent in 2012 to an average of 11.1 million kroner a year.

“The rise is a result of the fact that the size of the variable share of salaries, such as bonuses and shares, have risen,” Lars Holtoug from PwC told EPN.dk. “The executives' salaries are dependent upon the company’s performance and C20 shares rose an average 27 percent in 2012.”

About 50 percent of a C20 executive salary is variable, according to financial daily Børsen, meaning that as stock prices rise so too do the salaries.

But the rise of stock prices has occurred despite the fact that Denmark has yet to fully recover from the economic crisis and ordinary workers and managers have had to make do with salary increases of only between one and two percent over the same period.

Danish executives earn a much smaller share of their salaries from variable sources compared to the US, for example, where 71 percent of a top executive's salary is performance based.

The Danish association of shareholders, Dansk Aktionærforening (DA), was also critical of the high wages that board members are earning.

“We think it sends a bad signal at a time of crisis in which employees are facing cuts and low or no salary increases,“ DA's managing director, Jens Møller Nielsen, told EPN.dk, adding that it wasn’t fair that the salaries increased just because the stock was rising.

“It will take many years to determine whether the management actually created any value,” he said.

Holtoug argued, however, that the rise in salary was the result of increased demand for highly-skilled managers.

“C20 companies operate in a global world including the competition for the best top managers,” Holtoug told EPN.dk. “In order to attract highly-qualified foreigners to Denmark we need to have competitive salaries.”

The salaries of C20 board members varies widely, from 5.7 million at FLSmidth and 13.7 million at Novo Nordisk to 25.7 million at Carlsberg.

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