Rio Tinto Alcan CEO's remuneration cut 27 per cent in 2012 on weak results

MONTREAL – Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Jacynthe Cote’s total remuneration was cut by nearly 27 per cent last year to C$3.1 million due to weak performance of the aluminum division and its US$11-billion writedown, according the London-based miner’s (NYSE:RIO) annual report.

The 54-year-old Quebec native’s base salary increased 6.6 per cent to C$921,000 but Cote’s bonus and long-term incentives were drastically reduced.

Cote’s cash bonus and the value of deferred shares were cut to C$201,000, from C$950,000 in 2011. Long-term awards were reduced to C$1.38 million from nearly C$2 million a year earlier.

She was docked because of the large impairment charge that caused parent company Rio Tinto PLC to report its first loss — US$3 billion on US$51 billion of net revenues, and a fatality in January 2012 at the Roberval-Saguenay railway in Quebec. Excluding the charges, Rio Tinto earned US$9.3 billion last year.

The Montreal-based aluminium division earned just US$3 million, a drop of US$439 million from 2011, as its felt the effects of a significant deterioration in market conditions and the impact of a protracted lock-out of employees at its smelter in Alma, Que.

Revenues dropped 17 per cent to US$10.1 billion driven by a sharp fall in the average aluminium market price to US$2,018 per tonne and lower production at Alma, offset by the expansion of the Yarwun refinery in Australia.

“The financial performance of the business generally exceeded targets set by the board at the beginning of 2012,” stated John Varley, chairman of the remuneration committee.

“The board was, however, deeply disappointed by the US$14.4 billion writedowns that we have taken in 2012, primarily in our aluminum and energy businesses.”

In addition to the aluminum writedown, Rio Tinto took a US$3 billion charge relating to its coal operations in Mozambique.

Rio Tinto executives were eligible to receive up to double their base salary in bonuses based on the performance of their business unit. But the value of incentives awarded to Cote represented 21.6 per cent of her salary. Factors driving additional awards to her included reducing costs, expanding margins, reducing the carbon footprint and delivering the Yarwun expansion.

Sam Walsh, who headed Rio Tinto’s iron ore division until being named chief executive, received A$6.6 million in total remuneration last year, up 14.6 per cent from 2011. His compensation in Australian dollars included $1.64 million in base salary, $2.15 million in short-term incentives and $2.2 million in long-term awards.

The iron ore division achieved strong earnings and cash flow in 2012.

His base salary will increase nearly 15 per cent to A$1.9 million in 2013.

Former CEO Tom Albanese earned 4.37 million pounds last year, up nearly 10 per cent from 2011 largely due to the value of vested long-term awards pension value. His base salary was 1.5 million pounds and he received no short-term bonus of deferred shares.

Rio Tinto said Canadian executive Paul Tellier’s total remuneration as a board member increased to 404,000 pounds in 2012, including 202,000 pounds in fees.

Although the macroeconomic climate remains uncertain, Rio Tinto expects that global demand for aluminum will increase by nearly six per cent in 2013.

Rio Tinto said the longer term outlook for aluminum remains robust with strong demand expected in transportation, infrastructure and consumer goods, spurred by urbanization in China and emerging Asia-Pacific countries. As a low-cost producer, it expects to prosper as some 40 million tonnes of aluminum is expected to be needed through 2025.

The global demand picture outlined above would translate into a need for around 40 million tonnes of the long term.