James Hardie Industries shareholders have been asked to give the building group’s board a pay rise including a 17 per cent jump to more than $462,000 for chairman Michael Hammes.
The board has proposed a total increase of $300,000 to $2.3 million for the maximum aggregate amount paid to non-executive directors.
“The board considers that these fees provide an appropriate level of reward to attract and retain directors from the USA, Europe and Australia,” the company’s annual report said ahead of next month’s AGM.
“(It is) part of the board’s desired diversity given the geographic spread, nature and complexity of the company’s operations and time commitment by directors.”
Chief executive Louis Gries, one of Australia’s best paid bosses, will not get an increase to his base pay of $951,743.
However his total pay package has shot up by nearly half to $11.65 million with more than $2.8 million cash in short term bonuses paid.
The board will also lift Mr Gries’ target long term incentive by $400,000 to $3.5 million.
The board and executives are being rewarded for the turnaround in the company’s fortunes, including a more than doubling in net profit to $US99.5 million in fiscal 2014.
It is a contrast to the company’s recent past, including the asbestos scandal and the High Court finding two years ago that seven directors of the company breached their duties.
The annual report released on Monday showed the estimated size of its asbestos compensation bill to cancer victims grew in the year to March 31 from $1.71 billion in 2013 to $1.85 billion in 2014.
It paid more than $140 million in claims at an average of more than $253,000 per settlement.
The 608 new claims filed against the company compared with 542 the previous year, continuing an upward trend despite previously expecting mesothelioma cancer claims to peak in 2010-11.
James Hardie used to be a key producer of asbestos building products such as `fibro’ that have since been proven to cause diseases such as asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.
If claims continue to increase at the current rate the bill liability could blow out to $2.3 billion.
The company was positive about its prospects this year, given recent improvements in its biggest earner the US housing market, meaning better prices for its fibre cement products.
Bullish US housing starts growth forecasts have prompted analysts to put buy recommendations on the stock, with Deutsche Bank lifting its share price target last week from $15.89 to $18.82.
James Hardie shares fell four cents to $13.76 on Monday, but is up 10.3 per cent this year.