AstraZeneca CEO gets two cheers after first year in job

Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:38am EDT
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* Soriot's bolt-on M&A strategy helps fill strategic gaps

* No quick fix as patent losses set to shrink sales, profits

* Heavy science focus good for staff morale at drugmaker

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Fixing ailing drugmaker AstraZeneca remains a work in progress for Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, with sales and profits still heading firmly downhill after his first year in the job.

Yet confidence is slowly building that he may have the right long-term prescription for the British group, helped by some lessons learnt at his past employer Roche.

Soriot has shunned a big acquisition as a way to plug the deep revenue gap left by multiple patent expiries, opting instead for a string of smaller deals, a reboot of the drug pipeline and a shake-out of top management.

His goal of "achieving scientific leadership" may fall short on the kind of hard financial targets that some investors would like, but it has resonated with many younger researchers who felt the group was drifting, following past R&D setbacks. It has already accelerated work on several promising cancer drugs.

"When I talk to people in the industry about AstraZeneca, it is a place where people now want to go and work - and that hasn't been true for about 10 or 15 years," said Dan Mahony, a fund manager at Polar Capital, who has raised his stake in the company in the past year.   Continued...