By Brenda Goh
LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - BAE Systems Chairman Dick Olver, who presided over a failed attempt to merge with European defence and aerospace peer EADS, survived a shareholder vote on Wednesday to begin a tenth year at the helm.
Shareholders including BAE’s biggest investor Invesco, which owns 18 percent of Europe’s largest arms maker, had demanded Olver’s resignation over the failed $45 billion merger plan, which foundered on political opposition in October.
Investors holding almost 99 percent of proxy votes chose to re-elect Olver at their annual meeting in Farnborough, southern England, an event dominated by questions, songs and protests from anti-arms campaigners.
“I didn’t vote for Olver, nor for King, I think it’s time they moved out,” said 68-year-old Thomas Cooper, a retiree who has been a private shareholder in BAE for over 20 years.
“I didn’t think they should have gone for the merger ... I was surprised that they survived. I thought the institutions wanted them out. They must have changed their minds,” he said.
Olver has been due to leave in May 2014, but BAE has said he may leave before then and has hired a headhunter to look for a replacement. Nick Rose, a newly elected director to the BAE board who is leading the search, said the process was under way.
BAE’s 2012 profits were hit by delays to a Saudi fighter jet deal and shrinking government defence budgets. It is searching for new avenues of growth and is targeting overseas markets such as the Middle East.
Earlier on Wednesday, it forecast modest growth in earnings per share for 2013 and left its forecasts unchanged. It said that did not reflect the possible impact of further cuts to U.S. defence spending under a process known as sequestration.
The company reiterated in a document issued to shareholders that it was not planning to merge with any other companies and was focused on delivering “sustainable growth in shareholder value”.