AstraZeneca’s shareholders rebel over pay

Shareholders in AstraZeneca have rebelled over proposals to raise bonus levels for its bosses.

 © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Image credit: © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Drug giant AstraZeneca has suffered a “major shareholder rebellion” over proposals to raise bonus levels for its bosses, including CEO Pascal Soriot (pictured), says Julia Bradshaw in The Daily Telegraph. While the proposals were passed, over 40% of AstraZeneca’s investors voted against them.

Soriot’s possible earnings have now climbed from 650% of his salary to 900% in just two years. The reason the revolt went as far as it did was due to opposition from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), which advises 4,000 clients on how they should vote, says Oliver Shah in the Sunday Times. However, while the likes of ISS can be useful in fighting “egregious bonuses”, such as those at floundering Cineworld, their “box-ticking” is unfair for Soriot, one of the few “world-class chief executives in the FTSE 100”. AstraZeneca’s share price has increased by 80% since he took over and it has developed a Covid-19 vaccine with Oxford, so“if anyone deserves a pay rise, it is Soriot”.

Soriot is a “talented chief” whose performance “actually lives up to the multimillion-pound billing” and his pay isn’t excessive compared with his contemporaries at Roche or Pfizer, says Helen Thomas in the Financial Times. Still, investors rightly worry that the dynamic in the AstraZeneca boardroom has “tipped” in favour of its “superstar boss”, who is now “being feted as the saviour of the UK’s health and economy”. The increased size and complexity that AstraZeneca is taking on with its $39bn takeover of Alexion, which shareholders also approved at the meeting, could prompt Soriot to demand even more money in future.

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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