While the outlook was rosier than it has been in more than three years, some of the 200-300 PG&E Corp. shareholders attending the corporate annual meeting Wednesday in San Francisco tossed some verbal grenades at CEO Robert Glynn for the company’s $83 million bonus program last year for 17 of the top executives, including Glynn himself, who pocketed the single biggest bonus at $17 million.

The shareholders who spoke up — four or five out of dozens who asked questions during an 80-minute Q&A period — objected to the executives taking these “retention bonuses” established in early 2001, a few months before PG&E’s combination utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a process it just emerged from April 12.

One shareholder quoted in a Reuters News Wire report criticized Glynn and the other top executives for “putting the company in bankruptcy” and yet not “suffering,” as the shareholders. The company’s dividend has been suspended for more than three years and it’s not expected to resume until the second half of next year.

A PG&E spokesperson said there was not an unusually large number of shareholders present at the annual meeting, and only a handful expressed concerns about the bonuses. Nevertheless, a shareholder-initiated proposal that was opposed by management was passed, urging the board to put any takeover bids to a shareholder vote before implementing a so-called “poison pill” to stop the deal, and Glynn indicated that he and the other corporate directors would now have to implement the shareholders’ wishes. Exactly how and when, however, was not specified, according to the spokesperson.

Other measures did not pass, but each received considerable shareholder support. A proposal to limit “golden parachute” severance packages for executives received support from 43.6% of the shares voted, and another item to separate the chairman and CEO roles received just a little more than 34% of the shares voted.

In his scripted remarks, Glynn told shareholders that the utility holding company has entered a “uniquely stable” period in which it has more regulatory and labor certainty, although the list of caveats at the end of its formal announcement on the shareholders’ meeting ran longer than the summary of the CEO’s remarks.

An outlook for more than $7 billion of investments in utility infrastructure in California was presented by Glynn, who said PG&E is ready to provide up to $1.5 billion annually over the next five years. At a separate CPUC meeting Tuesday, a PG&E executive said the utility is proposing a new long-term electricity-buying program that could include new “turn-key” power plants that would be eventually utility operated and/or owned under cost-of-service contracts.

Glynn said that since the start of this year the holding company’s core (and now sole) business, the giant combination utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., regained an investment-grade credit rating, paid more than $11 billion to creditors, and “created a path (for the corporation) to resume paying a common stock dividend by the second half of 2005.”

With newly cut, long-term deals with the California Public Utilities Commission and its principal labor unions, Glynn said he expects stability, allowing the company to re-affirm its earnings guidance from its last financial results announcement on 2003 and first-quarter 2004 results.

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