AstraZeneca investors press exec-comp chair to tie pay to Pfizer bid

John Varley

Several top AstraZeneca ($AZN) shareholders are pressing for meetings with John Varley, the former CEO of Barclays bank who also happens to head up the drugmaker's remuneration committee, Sky News reports. The aim? To follow through on calls to link AstraZeneca executive pay to the value of Pfizer's ($PFE) rejected buyout offer.

Last month, AstraZeneca rebuffed the U.S. drug giant's £55 per share bid, saying shareholders would be better served if the company pursued its own path. AZ unveiled some aggressive sales targets and pipeline predictions to sway investors to its side.

As the bid fell apart, some investors called on the AstraZeneca board to pin executive compensation to the value of Pfizer's bid. Basically, the idea is that AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and his team lose out on bonuses unless they make sure their stock delivers the same value that Pfizer's offer would have. Or more, of course.

Soriot shot down that idea in an interview with the Financial Times last week, saying that share-price targets are "crude" measures of executive performance. They're not even directly linked to company performance per se. "Our long-term incentive program is already aligned with growth targets and pipeline delivery," Soriot told the newspaper. "If the stock market goes up, you can get to the target relatively easily. If it goes down, it becomes very hard."

The Pfizer bid isn't completely dead; under U.K. takeover rules, the company could come back with an offer in 6 months. Or, if AstraZeneca made the first move, deal talk could start as soon as August.

- read the Sky News story

Special Report: Top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - AstraZeneca