EXECUTIVES at drinks group Diageo have taken a pay cut following a tough year, though former boss Paul Walsh was awarded £6.4 million for his final three months at the firm.

The maker of Bell's whisky and Smirnoff vodka paid out just 8.9 per cent of the maximum cash bonus to chief executive Ivan Menezes, chief financial officer Deirdre Mahlan and Mr Walsh, who left in September after nearly 13 years in charge.

The company missed targets on sales growth, pre-tax profits and cash flow. In the year since Mr Menezes took the reins in July 2013, shares in Diageo fell 31p or 1.6 per cent, lagging behind a rise of almost nine per cent in the FTSE 100 index.

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Last month,Scotland's biggest whisky distiller posted a nine per cent drop in annual sales as Chinese business slowed down and other regions were hit by political unrest and alcohol levies.

However, earnings per share over the past three years have risen enough to trigger awards worth 71 per cent of the maximum from Mr Menezes' and Mr Walsh's long-term share schemes.

Mr Menezes was paid £7.7m in the year to the end of June, including a £1.8m salary, a bonus of £170,000 and long-term share awards from his current role and previous job as chief operating officer.

In comparison, Mr Walsh was paid a total of £15.5m for his role as chief executive in the year to June 2013.

Almost 12 per cent of Diageo investors voted against last year's remuneration report.

The firm also said in its annual report yesterday that it had invited pitches for a new auditor, having worked with KPMG since Diageo's formation in 1997.