Shire CFO, along with analysts, tries to placate investors after surprise exit news sent shares south

Shire CFO Jeff Poulton’s decision to depart, announced Monday, surprised the company—and the market. Later in the day, though, Poulton himself and at least one analyst tried to calm investor fears.

As Poulton, who will be leaving at the end of the year to serve as the CFO of a Boston-based agricultural startup, told Barron’s, the move is about nothing more than wanting a change. Timing is “never good with these kinds of things,” but there’s “no smoking gun here,” he told the investor service.

Jefferies analyst David Steinberg came away with a similar conclusion after his own conversation with Poulton, writing in a Tuesday note to clients that “our take is that his move is motivated by an interest in a more entrepreneurial professional opportunity,” and noting that “we have always found Mr. Poulton to be straightforward and honest.”

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Of course, that doesn’t mean the transition will make things easier for Shire, which also recently lost R&D chief Phil Vickers, Steinberg pointed out, noting that the short window for the exits “naturally raises some concerns.”

“The timing is highly inopportune and serves to exacerbate already negative investor sentiment,” he wrote.

Evercore ISI’s Joshua Schimmer, though, was more upbeat. “We still see the valuation as attractive, and believe that upcoming catalysts will include executing on the company's growing biologic franchise and cutting spending while the pipeline delivers next year and beyond,” he wrote in his own investor note. He tagged immunology and hereditary angioedema, among others, as potential areas for growth.

Meanwhile, Poulton will still be around for a while, and before he leaves, he’ll be helping the company’s management tap his replacement and wrap up a strategic review of its neuroscience business, which it’s said it could spin off.