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Unilever cuts FitzGerald bonus by 40% as targets missed

LONDON - Unilever cut the bonus paid to its outgoing chairman Niall Fitzgerald by as much as 40% after targets were missed by parts of the consumer goods giant's business.

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Fitzgerald saw his bonus cut to £204,000 in 2003, compared with £1.01m the year before. His co-chairman Antony Burgmans also saw his bonus cut to £262,000 from £1.3m in 2002.

Fitzgerald, who announced his retirement from Anglo-Dutch company last month, also saw a drop in pay down to £1.4m last year from £2.1m in 2002.

The decrease in bonus levels for Unilever's most senior executives followed two cuts to its sales outlook.

Despite the fall in the size of his bonus FitzGerald, who is to become chairman of Reuters, still saw his basic salary rise by 8.5% to £1.02m.

"The bonus payable in respect of 2003 is substantially less than the bonus paid for 2002 because the business results for 2003 were below expectations, particularly with regard to growth in the leading brands,'' Unilever's remuneration committee, chaired by Bertrand Collomb, wrote in the report.

FitzGerald is unlikely to be troubled by the fall in the size of his bonus because he is set to become one of the highest-paid non-executive chairmen in the FTSE100 with a salary of £500,000 a year for the part-time Reuters job. The figure is nearly double the £278,000 paid to his predecessor Sir Christopher Hogg.

Sales at Unilever rose by 2.5% as the group pushed forward its Path to Growth strategy to slim down its portfolio of products and focus on key brands.

However the growth was half what the company forecast. FitzGerald, who was one of the architects behind the strategy, said four years ago that sales of top brands would rise as much as 6% by the end of 2004 as a result of the strategy.

Unilever has not since repeated this forecast and it is now aiming for growth of between 3% and 5%.

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