Canada’s third-largest food retailer, Metro, has had its annual meeting disrupted by shareholders angry at the CEO’s C$28m (US$18m) salary in 2002.

The shareholders, who are mainly independent merchants owning Metro-franchised supermarkets, called Pierre Lessard’s wages “excessive” and “indecent”.

“I don’t know many CEOs in Canada who have cashed in $28m in a year, and $48m over four years,” Guy Pelletier, head of the Regroupement des marchands actionnaires, an association of 70 Metro merchants in Quebec, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Metro, which has a 32% market share in Quebec and a 7% market chare in Canada, said its earnings were up 16% in the first quarter, on a 7% rise in sales.

In the quarter to 28 December, Metro said it earned $35.3m, up from $30.4m a year earlier.

The company’s sales increased 6.7% to $1.31bn from $1.23bn a year earlier.

Lessard said the company was on the lookout for possible acquisitions outside Quebec.