Coveney shows faith in SSP Group shares

FTSE-listed food group’s share price has been dropping of late despite the CEO’s purchase of 40,000 shares

Patrick Coveney might have felt his ears burning last week, as his performance at his company, Greencore, was the subject of some unflattering appraisals. Catherine Gubbins, Greencore’s CFO, pointedly noted that the company’s operating systems needed investment “after a lack of focus here for a number of years”, while an equity analyst said the company was “in the middle of a lost decade”.

Things appear to be going a lot better for Coveney at his new company, SSP Group, the FTSE-listed food company that was formerly a division of SAS, the Scandinavian airline. In its most recent annual report, published at the end of 2023, chairman Mike Clasper wrote glowingly of Coveney’s “first full performance year since stepping into the group CEO role in March 2022″ and of how he had “further demonstrated his exceptional leadership, and significant, positive impact on the business”.

That performance has been well remunerated. Coveney gets a healthy salary that includes pension provisions, bonuses up to 175 per cent of his salary and share awards up to 100 per cent of his salary.

In the first nine months he worked for the company, he made £390,000 as a base salary, had benefits worth £96,000, £12,000 in pension payments and a bonus worth £643,000. All told his remuneration package was worth £1.1 million for just three quarters of the year.

That leapt in size in 2023, his first full year with the company, with a base salary of £775,000, benefits worth £133,000 and a bonus worth £1.3 million, all contributing to a total package worth £2.3 million. Next year it’s likely to rise again, with his base salary set to rise to £802,100

None of which the chairman begrudges him, with Clasper describing the bonuses of 96 per cent as being “a fair and accurate reflection of [his] achievements in the year”.

Coveney clearly has as much faith in the company as it has in him. Last week he bought 40,000 shares in the business, which cost him a total of £74,076. It’s a small amount of shares, to be sure, but it tops up his existing stake of 908,262 shares (separate to the million unvested share awards he has).

He got them at a bargain, too, at £1.85 per share, which is considerably less than the £2.75 they cost in his first few months at the company.

If he was playing the canny investor and buying the dip, he’ll have noticed even more opportunities since then, as the share price has continued to slide, dropping to less than £1.70 early this week.

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