* Outgoing CEO Moss will receive 1.75 mln stg payoff
* "Shareholder Spring" gathers momentum in Europe
* Interim CEO John McFarlane to review operations
(Adds details of CEO payoff, review of operations, analyst
By Matt Scuffham
LONDON, May 8 Aviva chief executive
Andrew Moss became the biggest casualty of a growing investor
revolt over pay on Tuesday, stepping down after shareholders
voted against the British insurer's remuneration plans.
A "Shareholder Spring" is spreading from Britain as
investors across Europe become increasingly hostile to big
rewards for directors in companies whose shares are flagging.
Aviva's are down over 35 percent since March last year.
At a stormy annual meeting last week, shareholders in
Britain's second biggest insurer had called on Moss to step down
despite his announcement that he would waive his pay increase.
Aviva said on Tuesday he had decided to resign.
"He has finally fallen on his sword after increasing
pressure in recent weeks from shareholders and the media over
pay and share price performance," said Espirito Santo analyst
Investors felt Aviva had failed to recover from the 2008
financial crisis as well as rivals Legal & General and
Prudential. The caretaker management signalled a change
in tack to build Aviva's capital.
Aviva shares rose. They closed up 0.2 percent compared to a
1.78 percent fall in the benchmark FTSE 100 index.
Moss, who will leave at the end of May, will still get a
payoff of up to 1.75 million pounds ($2.8 million) in salary,
bonuses, pension and outstanding share awards, a source familiar
with the situation told Reuters.
Former Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ)
Chief Executive and Standard Chartered director John
McFarlane, who was due to take over as non-executive chairman in
July, will take on Moss's duties until a replacement is found.
Acknowledging investor unrest, McFarlane promised a thorough
review of all Aviva's businesses and investments. He said he
would prioritise building capital and highlighted the need for
tighter capital allocation, expense and risk discipline.
"My first priorities are to regain the respect of our
shareholders by eliminating the discount in our share price and
to find internally or externally the very best leader to be our
future CEO," McFarlane said. Aviva said it could take months to
identify a new candidate.
One name likely to be linked with the post is Andy Haste,
credited with transforming rival RSA during eight years
until 2011. RSA made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Aviva's
general insurance operations in 2010.
Jefferies analyst James Shuck said a new chief executive
would allow Aviva to make a clean break and urged it to sell its
British and Canadian non-life insurance businesses.
"While the preference would be to sell the U.S. life
business, there are no obvious buyers. There are clear buyers
for UK and Canada non-life, potentially improving economic
capital to among the best in the sector," Shuck said.
The shareholder rebellion at Aviva mirrored those elsewhere.
More than a third of Swiss bank UBS's,
shareholders rejected its remuneration plans last week and there
were similar revolts at Credit Suisse and Barclays
British newspaper group Trinity Mirror's chief
executive is to step down after shareholders took issue with her
pay package in the midst of falling profits and sales.
Nearly half of bookmaker William Hill's shareholders
voted against a 1.2 million pound bonus for its Chief Executive
Company directors are expected to remain under pressure from
shareholders over executive pay even after the market downturn
ends with investors and directors saying the days of
shareholders routinely rubber-stamping company resolutions at
annual meetings are gone.
($1 = 0.6180 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by Matthew