Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Profits tumble sparks pay revolt

AstraZeneca's new boss faces a double-headache as pre-tax profit tumbled by more than a third to $1.3bn (£840m) in the first quarter and a pay revolt loomed at his first AGM.

Pascal Soriot, who joined from Roche last October, had little good news for investors who met at the Lancaster Gate hotel yesterday, just hours after AstraZeneca admitted that sales were down 13% to $6.4bn (£4.1bn) in the first three months of this year. Pre-tax profit slumped 36%. The figures were worse than the City's low expectations and because certain medicines – including antipsychotic drug Seroquel – had fallen out of patent, facing generic competition without any new big sellers replacing them.

Soriot last month outlined a new strategy which includes axing nearly 4,000 jobs – including hundreds in the UK – and streamlining research and development to focus on a few areas, such as cancer.

But the AGM was his first time facing investors and it was set to be uncomfortable, as a significant group of investors have been advised to reject his pay plans.

Soriot is due to receive £6.5m for just three months' work, including a £991,000 "golden hello" to compensate him for his forfeited bonus from his previous employer, and £2m in restricted shares and in ordinary shares, subject to performance.

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