Cameron raises GSK's problems as CEO joins him on China visit

Mon Dec 2, 2013 12:05pm EST
 
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By Andrew Osborn and Ben Hirschler

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron raised GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK.L: Quote) problems in China - where it is being investigated for alleged bribery - with political leaders on Monday as the drugmaker emphasized its commitment to doing business there.

Cameron, who is visiting China with executives including GSK chief executive Andrew Witty, discussed the company's dilemma with China's leaders and stressed the need for a stable, predictable business environment, a person familiar with the matter said.

Witty is part of a 100-strong trade delegation travelling with Cameron. It is Witty's first visit to China since the corruption scandal blew up in July and a GSK spokesman said his presence underscored a desire to continue operating there.

Witty himself declined to comment on the investigation into alleged illegal payments by GSK to doctors and officials, but he told Reuters in Beijing that the British drugmaker would have something to say "quite soon".

GSK is Britain's largest pharmaceuticals business and a major employer of skilled workers, including many scientists. Witty has advised Cameron on business matters in the past and recently wrote a report on universities for the government.

The scandal has tarnished the image of both GSK and its CEO, who has sworn to get to the bottom of any wrongdoing.

Commenting on his visit, GSK spokesman Simon Steel in London said: "It's an important opportunity to show our continued commitment to China and to supplying our medicines to the country."

Chinese police have accused GSK of funneling up to 3 billion yuan ($492 million) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to boost its drug sales. The accusations are the most serious against a multinational in China in years.   Continued...

 
GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Andrew Witty speaks at the Global Investment Conference in London July 26, 2012. REUTERS/Neil Hall