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Manifold sells before CRH listing switch to New York

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These are busy days for Albert Manifold, the long-serving chief executive of building materials group CRH.

The Dublin-based company, which last month reported a strong set of interims on the back of a resilient US construction market, is preparing to shift its primary listing from London to New York on September 25. 

To facilitate this, CRH is downgrading its UK-based listing status from premium to standard and cancelling its secondary listing on the Euronext Dublin exchange. The company’s argument is that it now generates three- quarters of its cash profit in North America, and that the US is seen as the key driver of future growth. A meeting to approve the switch held in June saw the move backed by 95 per cent of shareholders.

CRH’s shares will cease trading on the Dublin exchange on September 20. Ahead of this, Manifold exercised 1,293 options at a strike price of €23.39 (£21.21) and then sold more than 58,000 shares at a price of €51.48 per share, earning around €3mn in the process.

Manifold is the third-best paid FTSE 100 chief executive. The amount sold is less than a third of the €9.9mn in performance-related pay he earned last year (his salary and benefits brought his total remuneration to over €12mn), according to the company’s annual report. 

Whether he will receive an even bigger pay packet once the company’s primary listing shifts across the Atlantic remains to be seen. Chief executives of US-listed companies generally tend to be more handsomely compensated than their UK counterparts – an issue that the London Stock Exchange’s chief executive Julia Hoggett has argued is a barrier to the UK retaining top talent.

Drax exec sells after strategy update

Companies in the mid-point of the energy supply chain are in rude health. These include power generators and infrastructure operators like National Grid (NG.) and Drax (DRX), the latter of which saw a 17 per cent rise in operating profit last year. Unlike its oil and gas peers, Drax has maintained that momentum this year. In July, it reported an 89 per cent rise in interim operating profit for 2023, to £392mn. 

Drax calls itself the UK’s top renewable power generator, courtesy of its wood pellet-burning plants and pumped hydroelectric operations. To sustain this, it is reliant on politicians’ continued heavy support for biomass. Added clarity on this came last month with the publication of the government’s latest biomass strategy, which backed the sector continuing in its current form for another decade, albeit with some tighter standards attached. 

The department for energy security and net zero said it would support moves to “transition away from unabated emission uses of biomass” by 2035. Drax put it slightly differently, saying there would “remain a role for biomass without [carbon capture] in harder to decarbonise sectors and in supporting energy security”. 

Burning wood is more CO2 intensive per kilowatt hour than coal, according to research firm Ember. Drax said the government strategy was “highly supportive” of biomass that had carbon capture attached, although this technology is yet to be managed at scale. 

Drax investors may have been expecting more from the publication; its share price has dipped 7 per cent since the strategy document was published on 11 August. It was amid this dip that Drax chief commercial officer Paul Sheffield sold £441,000 worth of shares, at an average of 552p a share. It comes after he sold just under £100,000 worth of shares on July 31. Drax did not respond to a request for comment.

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