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Directors fall foul as Bowleven withholds payouts

SCOTTISH oil and gas company Bowleven has postponed the payout of an incentive plan to directors, including chief executive Kevin Hart, after poor recent share price performance.

Missing OUT: Bowleven's chief executive Kevin Hart would have been due 117,000 shares, worth £80,000, under the incentive plan.

The Cameroon-focused explorer's 2009 performance scheme was due to pay 20% of the potential maximum after comparing the company's total shareholder return to its competitors.

This would have handed Mr Hart 117,000 shares, which even at Bowleven's current depressed price would be worth £80,000.

Between them, four board colleagues would have picked up another 186,000 shares.

Bowleven told investors: "In recognition of the absolute share price performance over the performance period and in order to ensure a greater degree of alignment with shareholders, the executive directors and the remuneration committee have agreed that the vesting of the 2009 LTIP [long-term incentive plan] awards should be deferred."

It has slapped on a further condition that the company formally decided to proceed with its proposed initial development of the Etinde Permit off the coast of Cameroon, before the bonus scheme vests.

This is currently expected in the second half of 2013.

At the end of last month Bowleven submitted an application to the Cameroon authorities to develop discoveries made off the West African coast. First production is targeted for 2016.

Last month the company signed a strategic alliance with Petrofac under which the services giant will provide funding for the development.

Bowleven's share price ended yesterday at 68.5p, half the 134.25p peak it reached in February when the Edinburgh-based company was the subject of bid interest from rival Dragon Oil.

Three years ago, at the start of the performance period, Bowleven's shares were trading at 82.75p each and hit heights of 397p in early 2010.

In the year to June 30, Bowleven narrowed its pre-tax losses to $13 million.

Mr Hart received a salary and bonus worth $901,000 (£560,000), down from $957,000 the previous year.

Bowleven yesterday announced it had launched a new long-term incentive plan for executives, granting them nearly two million shares with a paper worth of £1.4m.

Mr Hart's award was 722,000 shares, worth £494,000 or 141% of his basic salary. The number of shares that finally vest will depend on whether they meet performance conditions.

Bowleven's postponement of this year's incentive scheme award comes after its decision in 2011 to make the maximum pay-out of £1.5 million to directors raised eyebrows.

Scottish oil companies have been humbled by investor rebellions over perceived pay excesses this year.

In May, Aberdeen-based Faroe Petroleum blamed a change in shareholder sentiment for its decision to ditch plans for a controversial incentive scheme, which could have seen chief executive Graham Stewart take a 1% stake in the company.

Four out of 10 investors failed to back its pay report.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the year Cairn Energy withdrew a proposed £2.5m share hand-out to founder Sir Bill Gammell

Sir Bill, a former Scottish international rugby player, also saw 67% of shareholders vote against Cairn's remuneration report in which it was disclosed he received £1.8m for the year, including £1.4m compensation after he exchanged the chief executive's job for the chairmanship in July.

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