AstraZeneca boss has bonus frozen after investor row

AstraZeneca moves to appease shareholders over chief executive’s £14million pay by promising to freeze its bonus package for three years

  • AstraZeneca under Pascal Soriot, played a key role in the global Covid vaccination effort
  • Pharmaceutical giant suffered shareholder rebellion last year over boss’ rewards
  • Angry investors dramatically increased potential bonus for 2nd year in a row

AstraZeneca has moved to appease shareholders over its chief executive’s £14m salary by promising to freeze his bonus package for three years.

The pharmaceutical giant suffered a shareholder rebellion last year over the rewards given to its boss, Pascal Soriot.

Even though AstraZeneca had under his leadership played a key role in the global Covid vaccination effort, investors were unhappy that the company had significantly increased its potential bonus for the second consecutive year.

Taking the lead :: AstraZeneca, under the leadership of Pascal Soriot, has played a key role in the global Covid vaccination effort.

Outgoing chairman Leif Johansson said that since last May’s annual meeting he had met with 16 major investors representing 40 percent of the share register.

He admitted the decision to ask shareholders to vote on a new pay policy for two consecutive years was an “unusual step”.

These policies, which set executive stock and bonus awards, are typically voted on every three to five years.

Johansson promised investors last year that the company would not introduce a new pay policy for three years.

Last week it confirmed in its annual report that the 2021 policy would remain in place until 2024 “in response to concerns raised by some shareholders”.

Despite the controversy, the Frenchman’s salary was lower than that of his peers in the global pharmaceutical industry. His salary last year was also lower than his total of £15.9million for 2020.

In total, he owns shares in the company worth £26million.

The only change to Soriot’s salary this year will be a 3% increase, in line with the rest of his squad, taking his salary to £1.37million. His maximum bonus will be 250% of his salary and long-term incentives will be 650% of his base salary until 2024.

The company’s annual report last week commended it for continuing to “work tirelessly with multiple government policy makers, health ministers and heads of state around the world to ensure the production and delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine. of AstraZeneca”.

Soriot took charge in 2012 and won a hostile £70bn bid from US firm Pfizer two years later. Shareholder returns increased 345% under his leadership.

Astra has pledged to produce the Covid jab at cost during the pandemic. He has now signed new deals to deliver it at a “modest” profit.

Andrew Speke of the High Pay Center think tank said: ‘Credit to shareholders who have challenged the pay scale paid to Pascal Soriot, but his package is still more than 400 times that of the average British worker.’

“Greater restraint must be observed in the years to come if AstraZeneca is serious about showing that it takes fair and proportionate reward seriously.”

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