Apparently confident AstraZeneca CEO socks $3.4M into company shares

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

Pascal Soriot has raised the stakes on AstraZeneca's ($AZN) turnaround. The chief executive plunked down £2 million ($3.4 million) to buy more of his company's shares.

It may demonstrate his faith in the company's independent future, now that the dust has settled on Pfizer's ($PFE) spurned £55-per-share buyout offer. It may be an attempt to demonstrate that he's so heavily invested in AstraZeneca's stock price, there's no need to link his compensation the value of that Pfizer offer.

Either way, it's a financial back-up to the ambitious financial projections Soriot used to fend off Pfizer. Soriot and Chairman Leif Johansson predicted $3.5 billion in sales for the now-suffering Brilinta by 2023, a drug that pulled in just $99 million for the first quarter of this year. They forecast big growth for the company's diabetes franchise. And they tipped several cancer candidates as potential blockbusters.

Add it all up, and AstraZeneca will count $45 billion in 2023 sales--about $20 billion more than last year's, or so they said. Plenty of payoff for shareholders. Way more than Pfizer's $119 billion buyout offer.

Skeptics pounced on those numbers. Some prominent shareholders rolled their eyes. Analysts pointed out that Soriot's ambitions for his favorite pipeline drugs may not be realized. Just consider the ovarian cancer drug olaparib, which an FDA panel refused to fast-track last week. It now has a ways to go before it can enter the FDA's usual approval channels--and less time to build up to Soriot's designated $2 billion in sales.

As the Pfizer offer disappeared into AstraZeneca's rearview mirror, the calls came for Soriot's pay to depend on a share-price payoff equal to or better than Pfizer's bid. With 46,200 new shares to his credit--Soriot already owned beneficial interest in 151,581 shares, Reuters points out--he'll feel more pain if the company doesn't deliver. Almost 33% more pain, in fact.

- see the Reuters story

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