Apache Corp. shareholders didn't approve the energy company's executive compensation plan for 2012 at its annual meeting Thursday, making their displeasure with the company's performance known.
Fewer than half of the voting shareholders, 49.8%, voted for the compensation plan for named executives. The vote Thursday is advisory and the board has no legal obligation to make changes to the 2012 pay package.
Apache spokesman John Roper said the company sees the vote as a comment on share performance. Apache shares are down 7.3% from a year ago. Shares fell 1.2% to $80.89 Thursday.
"We want to see our performance improve as well and to do so we need to hit 3% to 5% percent growth and execute our plan. We believe we have the right plan in place to do that," Mr. Roper said.
Apache has said it plans to sell $4 billion in assets this year to focus on North American onshore production, which it thinks will provide the best return, and to rid itself of land that hasn't been as profitable as it hoped. It will use the proceeds to pay down debt and buy back shares.
Chief Executive Steven Farris said during the meeting that he believes the company's share price has lagged because it has fallen short of production expectations and because of anxiety over its position in Egypt.
"We've got a great company, we do a great job, but in the last four or five quarters, we haven't done what we said we were going to do," he said. "We have missed estimates, and we cannot make commitments to shareholders we don't meet."
Praveen Kumar, executive director of UH Global Energy Management Institute at the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business, said the board doesn't have to do anything in response to Thursday's vote, but it might want to, as such a vote can indicate that shareholders are united in their dissatisfaction. Last year over 95% of shareholders voted to approve the company's executive compensation for 2011.
"It is probably a kid of firing across the bow, indicating to the board that there is shareholder resistance," Mr. Kumar said.
Also at Thursday's meeting, shareholders elected three directors to Apache's board.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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