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Bonus row

Investors oppose payout to AstraZeneca chief

Pay deal: Pascal Soriot

A key investor group has shared concerns over drugs maker AstraZeneca’s plans to offer a pay and bonuses package to its boss, Pascal Soriot that could amount to £18m.

Two top shareholders —  Aviva Investors and Standard Life Aberdeen — have already voted to block the plans.

Now the Investment Association has issued an amber-top warning, its second highest level of alert.

Its intervention will add to a growing sense of unease over huge payouts to business leaders. An amber-top alert indicates that there is a significant issue for fund managers to take matters seriously.

Shareholders will be asked to consider Mr Soriot’s remuneration at AstraZeneca’s annual meeting tomorrow, though they can only cast an advisory vote. Other major shareholder advisory groups such as ISS, Glass Lewis and Pirc, are also opposing the deal.

The French boss has been praised for the rapid roll-out of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine at cost price, as well as driving up its share price since he took over in 2012.

But major shareholders have clashed over plans to boost Soriot’s share bonus by £2.3m to £12m — a sum that could increase to £18m if the firm’s share price rises.

One said the bonus threatened to “tarnish” the company’s reputation after it garnered praise for manufacturing a vaccine at no profit.

However, other City funds said they would approve the plans.

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More than half of the company’s shareholders would have to vote against the policy for it to reconsider its plans.

Astrazeneca is set to cut Soriot’s pension benefits from 20% to 11% of his salary, in line with the rest of the company’s workforce.

But his share award will rise from 550% to 650% of his salary — the second consecutive rise. The £8.6m pot bonus would rise if the firm’s share price rises.

Mr Soriot earned £15.4m last year and has pocketed nearly £90m since he joined the British company nine years ago.



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