AstraZeneca’s chief goes after profit warning

Marion Dakers
ASTRAZENECA’S (AZ) shares tumbled yesterday after chief executive David Brennan abruptly quit the firm.

Brennan, who has led the pharma giant for six years, announced his early retirement as the company issued a profit warning and quarterly results that missed forecasts.

The firm’s nominations committee has hired headhunter Spencer Stuart to replace Brennan, who AZ said is stepping down in June.

As part of the reshuffle, Leif Johansson will succeed Louis Schweitzer as non-exec chairman on 1 June – three months earlier than planned – to help with the search.

The fact that Brennan left without a successor in place suggests a sudden departure, with some suggesting the board pushed him to clear the way for a fresh leader.

But shareholders have been pushing for change at the top for months, frustrated at AstraZeneca’s dwindling drugs pipeline that has failed to make up for the expiry of the firm’s most lucrative patents.

While Brennan slashed costs and made some acquisitions, a string of disappointing patent and development results put him in the sights of shareholders. “We had been uncomfortable about the management situation for some time,” said one.

The firm disappointed yesterday with a 38 per cent slump in profits to $2.05bn (£1.27bn) and sales that were also short of forecasts at $7.35bn.

AstraZeneca cut its full-year earnings forecast by 15 cents a share, to between $5.85 and $6.15, and warned that revenues would fall faster than expected. Shares in AstraZeneca closed down 6.1 per cent at £26.67.