5. Loser: AstraZeneca

Company: AstraZeneca
Symbol: $AZN (London)
Beginning Price: 3050 pence
Ending Price: 2890.50 pence
Loss: 5.23%

AstraZeneca's ($AZN) year brings to mind that old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. The company lost patent protection on its biggest seller, the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. Big shareholders, frustrated by the company's anemic pipeline and lagging finances, weren't pacified by the ongoing share buybacks, or the 7,300 job cuts announced by then-CEO David Brennan. They lobbied for change--and Brennan stepped down soon after.

But AstraZeneca shares reversed their downward trajectory in early June, about the time Chairman Leif Johannson stepped in and launched a CEO search. And that trajectory more or less continued through the company's tag-team buyout, along with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), of diabetes specialist Amylin Pharmaceuticals in July and its Nexium licensing deal with Pfizer ($PFE) in August. Since the advent of CEO Pascal Soriot, investors have been less enthusiastic, perhaps because Soriot's first official act was to halt those buybacks. But from a low of 2591 pence in June, the company's London-traded shares are now floating in the 2900 range. The next big question is how investors will respond in January when Soriot steps forward with his new game plan.

For more:
AstraZeneca puts 7,300 jobs on the chopping block
Under pressure, Brennan bows out as AstraZeneca CEO
Bristol-Myers, AZ aim for diabetes glory with Amylin buy
Generics drag AZ sales down by $1.35B
Pfizer, AstraZeneca strike $250M-plus deal for OTC Nexium
AstraZeneca entices Roche exec to take on CEO challenge
What's AZ's new CEO thinking? Let's parse his words

5. Loser: AstraZeneca
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