AURIZON boss Andrew Harding earned $4.08 million last financial year. Picture: Tara Croser.
AURIZON boss Andrew Harding earned $4.08 million last financial year. Picture: Tara Croser.

Aurizon boss has $4m payday

Aurizon boss Andrew Harding earned a hefty sum in the last financial year despite the rail giant's numerous woes, including costly battles with state and federal regulators.

Yes, he pulled in a whopping $4.08 million, including a $1.25 million cash bonus, according to the Brisbane-based company's annual report released on Monday.

That makes Harding, a dedicated practitioner of the ancient art of meditation, one of Queensland's most highly paid execs.

The windfall was up substantially from Harding's comparably paltry $1.71 million for just seven months of work in the previous financial year.

Indeed, compensation for five of Aurizon top guns nearly quadrupled from $2.5 million to $9.5 million, the report shows.

You'll recall that Harding, a former Rio Tinto bizoid, took the Aurizon helm in December 2016 after the departure of long-time chief Lance Hockridge.

Hockridge, of course, also pocketed enormous compensation packages, including a gobsmacking $7.6 million in 2015 as he was busy handing out pink slips to the work force.

That cost-cutting ethos, known in warm'n fuzzy corporate-speak as a "transformation'' program, has continued under Harding and saved the company nearly $400 million in the past three years.

While Aurizon returned to profitability in the year to June, it warned yesterday that its underlying pre-tax earnings this year would take a hit from the end of two iron ore hauling contracts in WA.

The company is also fighting a two-front war against the Queensland Competition Authority and the ACCC that has spooked investors, sending the share price south.

A QCA ruling from December would deprive Aurizon of about $1 billion worth of earnings from its 2670km coal rail network, the nation's largest.

The ACCC, meanwhile, sued Aurizon and rival Pacific National last month over alleged efforts to reduce competition. Both companies are defending the case in Federal Court.

By pure coincidence, the Federal Court ordered Aurizon on Monday to continue operating its loss-making Queensland intermodal business until the legal dispute is resolved.

All this means that it will be that much tougher for Harding to earn a possible $6.3 million, which is predicated on him clearing a raft of performance hurdles.



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