China Motor Bus (CMB) directors have come under attack from minority shareholders for giving themselves a large pay rise while cutting back on dividends during prosperous times for the company. Minority shareholders who attended CMB's annual meeting yesterday complained about a 30.68 per cent cut in the company's dividend to $3.05 in the year to June 30. They said the large reduction was not warranted because of the CMB's 95.5 per cent year-on-year jump in attributable profit to $346.63 million in the period. Making matters worse, they said, was the board's decision to increase pay and benefits for its five executive directors by 34.65 per cent. They pressed for a distribution of CMB's $2.76 billion cash reserves or a repurchasing of the company's shares. CMB, nearly 50 per cent controlled by the Ngan family, became a pure property play last year, after the Government took away its 65-year exclusive rights to run franchised bus routes on Hong Kong Island. Yesterday, a representative of a minority investor who would not be named tried to challenge an executive director whose emoluments amounted to $11 million last year. 'I can't see who deserves to get this amount,' he said. 'A director stopped me from raising this question in the meeting, as he said I was only a representative.' He also said executive directors' salaries and benefits soared 34.65 per cent to $14.22 million last year based on CMB's annual report. Managing director Irene Ngan Kit-ling defended the increases for executive directors, saying the board's workload 'increased substantially' because of CMB's focus shift to real estate from bus services. She said directors were also busy last year in negotiations with the Government on the CMB's franchise renewal and bidding for bus routes. All five executive directors are Ngan family members. They are Ms Ngan; her 92-year-old father Ngan Shing-kwan, who is chairman; her brothers Horace Ngan Kit-keung and University of Hong Kong professor Henry Ngan; and her husband Fritz Helmreich, an Austrian former diplomat. One minority shareholder surnamed Chow yesterday criticised the board for not distributing to shareholders gains from property investments. Another shareholder said she had owned CMB shares for more than two decades, and flew to the SAR each year for the annual general meeting since migrating to the United States 20 years ago. 'I am disappointed the minority shareholders cannot share the investment gains,' she said. Managing director Ms Ngan said CMB had to build a war chest for development. She also said investment plans were in the pipeline. 'We'll reveal the details when the plans are finalised,' she said. The company's cash on hand would value its shares at $60 each, compared with yesterday's closing of $49. The shareholder representative said CMB should spend part of its cash repurchasing shares which traded at a discount to asset value. CMB's property portfolio includes a Chai Wan bus depot, office space and flats.