GlaxoSmithKline appoints new CEO

GlaxoSmithKline has appointed Emma Walmsley, head of consumer healthcare, to lead the British drugs giant and develop new treatments in a fast-consolidating sector.

Walmsley, 47, was promoted to his new office as Andrew Witty is due to retire from the company early 2017 after almost 10 years at the helm.

Walmsley, who joined GSK from French cosmetics giant L’Oreal six years ago and has a background in marketing, will take up her new post at the end of March.

She will join six other women who currently head one of the 100 companies listed on London’s benchmark FTSE index but will oversee the largest of the seven, which include EasyJet, led by Carolyn McCall.
The global pharmaceutical sector has undergone major consolidation in recent years as companies battle competition for generic versions of their drugs.

In the past month, US giant Pfizer announced a deal to purchase biotech firm Medivation, which specialises in cancer treatments, for $14 billion (12.5 billion euros).

Google and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi have meanwhile agreed a joint venture focused on diabetes care.
For its part, GSK agreed in 2014 to sell its oncology business to Novartis for $16 billion, while buying the Swiss group’s vaccines division in return.

The pair also formed a joint venture for consumer health products, headed by Walmsley.
“Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major global businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare,” GSK chairman Philip Hampton said in a statement.

“Under Andrew’s leadership, GSK has successfully developed into a company with market-leading positions in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare. These provide excellent platforms for sustainable, long-term growth,” he added.

Alongside the Novartis deal, the latter part of Witty’s tenure was clouded by Chinese authorities fining GSK the equivalent of almost half a billion dollars in 2014 over alleged bribery.
The firm’s former head of China operations, Mark Reilly, and four other ex-officials were handed suspended prison sentences over the incident.

Looking ahead, Walmsley said in the statement that GSK has “the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders” thanks to a rise in “medical innovation and trusted healthcare products”.
In an interview posted on the firm’s website, the married, mother-of-four added that research and developement of new products would remain GSK’s priority under her stewardship.

“R&D is absolutely the beating heart of our company and our success is and will continue to be defined most fundamentally by the strength of our pipeline,” she said.
The Oxford University graduate pointed also to challenges that lay ahead for her company and the sector as a whole.
“Pricing is a key area of focus, government and household budgets are under pressure, the regulatory environment is extremely tough and unpredictable and of course society wants big business and big pharma to continue to close the trust deficit that has been widening,” she said.

GSK’s shares were down 0.6 percent at £16.36 in late morning deals following the announcement, underperforming the wider FTSE 100, which gained half a percent.

“The GSK business, including pharma, is in stronger shape than the market realises and this ‘don’t upset the apple cart’ appointment is consistent with this view,” brokers Liberum said in a note to clients.
GSK said details of Walmsley’s salary would be disclosed next year. The company employs around 100,000 people worldwide, of which one-tenth work in R&D.


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