GlaxoSmithKline boss’s pay package jumps 50% to £12.7m | GlaxoSmithKline

The annual pay package of the boss of GlaxoSmithKline, Emma Walmsley, has jumped by 50% to £12.7m, mainly because of a higher share bonus payout reflecting the British drugmaker’s improved performance.

Walmsley’s huge pay rise makes her one of the highest-paid executives in the FTSE 100 index of leading shares, a week after it emerged that her counterpart at Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, received a £16.9m pay package last year and is in line for an even higher package, £18.6m, this year.

Walmsley is thought to be the highest-paid among the 10 female FTSE 100 chief executives.

Her pay packet of £12.7m last year compares with £8.5m in 2022. Her fixed pay – comprised of salary, benefits and pension – dropped slightly to £1.6m, while her annual cash bonus increased to £3.8m from £3.1m, according to GSK’s annual report.

Walmsley also received £7.3m from performance-based long-term share awards, compared with a £3.7m payout the year before, as a higher proportion of share awards vested last year and at a higher share price, increasing their value.

The company said: “Emma Walmsley’s remuneration for 2023 reflected excellent and sustained delivery against stretching performance targets, aligned to shareholder interests and value creation.

“This includes the company’s performance last year, where GSK delivered very strong sales, operating profit and earnings per share growth, and continued pipeline progress including the blockbuster launch of our new RSV vaccine, Arexvy.”

GSK’s Arexvy jab was the first vaccine approved against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in older adults, which causes thousands of deaths and hospitalisations in the UK each year, more than influenza.

The RSV vaccine, launched in the summer, has already become a blockbuster (defined as a drug with at least $1bn annual sales), racking up £1.2bn sales in four months.

In the first annual results since it spun off its consumer healthcare business Haleon in July 2022, GSK reported a pre-tax profit of £6.1bn for 2023, up by 14% at constant exchange rates. Turnover rose by 5% to £30.3bn, also boosted by steady demand for its shingles shot and HIV medicines. The company also upgraded its outlook.

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Walmsley has been under pressure to improve GSK’s performance, with a series of attacks from the US activist investor Elliott Management, a New York-based hedge fund, three years ago.

Andrew Speke, the spokesperson for the High Pay Centre, a thinktank focused on pay, corporate governance and responsible business, said Walmsley’s and Soriot’s pay packages show that “the top executives of pharmaceutical companies can make vast fortunes on the UK’s stock exchange, all while the NHS struggles for sufficient funding”.

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