Updated: EU pharma CEOs earned 46% less than U.S. peers

CEO pay in Europe continues to be a flashpoint given the high unemployment and austerity measures the workaday folk on the continent face. Swiss drugmaker Novartis ($NVS) had to defend against a huge backlash when it first proposed paying former Chairman Daniel Vasella's $78 million non-compete when he retired. Still, a new analysis shows the CEO's of European drugmakers continue to pull in far less than their U.S. counterparts. 

The report from Sam Fazeli, a London-based analyst for Bloomberg Industries, found that the median paycheck for the top pharma dogs in Europe last year was was $9.3 million, 46% less than the $17.2 million brought home by CEOs of U.S.-based drugmakers. Further, he found that the average pay of $13.7 million for large-cap pharmaceutical companies was significantly less than the $21.9 million paid to the leaders of industrial companies. 

Pfizer ($PFE) CEO Ian Read topped the list with his 2012 compensation of $25.6 million, a 2.5% bump from the previous year. But that was more than 5 times greater than $5 million paid to Lars Rebien Sørensen, CEO of Denmark-based Novo Nordisk ($NVO). According to Pfizer's proxy statement, 90% of Read's 2012 payout was was tied to company performance. He was given $1.7 million in salary, $6.4 million in stock awards, $6.5 million in options and a $3.4 million cash bonus. His total compensation also includes a $7.1 million change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings.

After howls broke out, Novartis in February backed off the payment to Vasella and he has since left Switzerland for the U.S. Still, the fervor against CEO salaries has not abated. Bloomberg points out that a U.K. pension group has recommended shareholders vote against the pay policy of London-based AstraZeneca ($AZN) at the company's April 25 annual meeting. The fund is upset over a £4 million ($6.13 million) sign-on award given to new CEO Pascal Soriot which was supposed to compensate him for bonuses sacrificed when he left Roche ($RHHBY).

- here's the Bloomberg story

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct percentage of pay that European CEOs earned compared to their U.S. counterparts.