Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot will fly back from Australia before the end of the month as he prepares to face disgruntled shareholders
Astrazeneca’s boss will jet back from Australia before the end of the month as he prepares to face disgruntled shareholders.
Pascal Soriot, who has spent much of the pandemic at his family home Down Under, has irked investors and even some board members by refusing to come back to the UK since Christmas.
During that time, Astra became embroiled in a row with the EU over supplies of its Covid jab, and has been put under intense regulatory scrutiny amid fears that its vaccine is causing rare blood clots.
Homeward bound: Pascal Soriot has spent much of the pandemic at his family home Down Under
While the company has stated that Soriot is managing the company effectively from afar, critics claim that boss would have a better grasp of the problems – and how to resolve them – if he was back in the country and in the same time zone as most of his colleagues. Under pressure from investors, the Mail understands Soriot, 61, is preparing to fly back to the UK in time for Astra’s online shareholder meeting on April 30.
Edentree Investment Management, which has a stake in Astra, said last week that Soriot’s absence ‘did not give the right signal or message’.
Ketan Patel, an Edentree fund manager, added: ‘If we were grading the PR effort, they could do better. If you look at the data, and see that the chances of getting a blood clot with this vaccine is about four in one million, compared to four in 10,000 for the contraceptive pill, that perspective needs to be highlighted.
‘Perhaps it is right to say, where is the chief executive in terms of articulating the healthcare benefits? He hasn’t been that public and being halfway around the world doesn’t give the right signal or message.’
Astrazeneca declined to comment but sources said Soriot’s plans were ‘still up in the air’. Soriot will be keen to nip any shareholder unease in the bud at this month’s online event, as it precedes the annual general meeting in May when investors will vote on his re-election to the board and the company’s executive pay. Last year, Soriot received £15.4m, up from £15.3m in 2019, including £13.4m in bonuses and incentives. Though shareholders will not be able to meet Soriot in person at this month’s online meeting, due to the pandemic, they will be able to ask questions on the live video call.
But many will feel comforted if he is back in the country, within easy reach of his colleagues at the Cambridge head office and with his focus squarely on the job.
Soriot, a French-born businessman who has made his career in pharmaceuticals, moved to Australia with his family in 1990, where he is now a citizen.
Insiders have said that Soriot is working ‘European business hours’ – despite Sydney being nine hours ahead of the UK – and his ability to communicate with his colleagues has not been hampered.