A share bonus hike for Astrazeneca’s chief executive was only narrowly approved in a vote where nearly 40 per cent of the pharma’s shareholders rejected the proposed pay package.
The pharmaceutical giant did pass the proposal, however, which could take Pascal Soriot’s total pay, including a £1.3m salary, above the £15.4m he received last year.
But bitter clashes between major City funds over pay came to a head at the annual meeting with 39.8 per cent of shareholders voting against the package.
Top shareholders Aviva Investors and Standard Life Aberdeen were among those who opposed the plans.
Interactive investor Lee Wild reportedly acknowledged that “AstraZeneca received a bloody nose” at the meeting and that that the considerable bonus hike might look “insensitive” as the pandemic continues.
“Too many chief executives are overpaid for underperformance. AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot is not one of them.”
“Soriot and his team achieved massive global success with a life-saving Covid vaccine”.
The shareholders, he argues, “ know the value of Soriot to Astra. Losing him could cost them far more than a few million quid a year.”
Soriot has been praised for rolling out the company’s Covid-19 vaccine at cost price, as well as driving up its share price since he took over in 2012.
Together with Oxford University, AstraZeneca was one of the first companies to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and has been praised for selling it at cost price.
Astrazeneca is set to cut Soriot’s pension benefits from 20 per cent to 11 per cent of his salary, in line with the rest of the company’s workforce.
But his share award will rise from 550 per cent to 650 per cent of his salary — the second consecutive rise. The £8.6m pot bonus would rise further if the firm’s share price rises.
Astrazeneca will increase his annual bonus from 200 per cent of salary to 250 per cent, or roughly £3.3m. Soriot has pocketed nearly £90m since he joined the British company nine years ago.