AstraZeneca boss lands bumper £11.4 million pay haul despite investor revolt

The boss of drugs giant AstraZeneca saw his pay package soar to £11.4 million last year despite suffering a shareholder backlash over his mammoth rewards.

The firm’s annual report revealed chief executive Pascal Soriot’s total pay included a £1.9 million annual bonus and £7.7 million of shares under a long-term incentive scheme.

His bumper payout was 9% higher than the £10.4 million awarded in 2017.

And he stands to pick up a potential maximum £10 million for 2019, including a 3% salary rise to £1.3 million, an annual bonus and long-term share awards depending on financial targets.

In its first-ever breakdown of Mr Soriot’s pay ratio, AstraZeneca revealed he earns 160 times the average employee’s salary.

It comes in spite of significant shareholder revolts over remuneration for two years running, with 35% of votes cast against the firm’s pay plans for top bosses at the 2018 annual general meeting (AGM).

Mr Soriot’s pay hike also follows a difficult year for the group, when core operating profits tumbled 17% to 5.7 billion US dollars (£4.3 billion) in 2018.

Astra insisted it has consulted with shareholders “extensively” since its recent bruising encounters with investors.

It said while it has not reined in its annual bonus and long-term share schemes, it has made “substantial changes to respond to
shareholder feedback”, including a number of changes to the performance measures.

The group also defended its decision to hike Mr Soriot’s salary, saying it aims to “find the right balance to incentivise, reward and retain highly talented individuals appropriately”.

Other changes since the AGM shareholder vote include its decision to reveal the CEO pay ratio ahead of incoming rules, as well as clarity on the target-setting process and simplifying its annual remuneration report.

Mr Soriot’s pay has been a thorny issue for the group in recent years, following a £14.3 million payout in 2016.

Nearly 40% of investors opposed Mr Soriot’s pay package at the group’s 2017 AGM, although 96% backed its pay policy introduced that year.