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AstraZeneca chief’s £2.3m pay hike sparks row

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AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot - Reuters
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot - Reuters

Two of AstraZeneca’s biggest shareholders have pushed against plans to increase boss Pascal Soriot’s pay packet ahead of the pharma giant’s annual meeting tomorrow.

Aviva Investors and Standard Life Aberdeen, two major shareholders in AstraZeneca, are among the investors against proposals to increase the chief executive’s bonus and performance-related share awards by £2.3m to £12m.

One person against the move warned that it was likely other major shareholders would also vote to block the proposals because the “quantum is too high”. Shareholder advisory groups have urged investors to vote against it.

A fund manager told the Mail on Sunday, which first revealed the names of the investors, that a boost in pay for Mr Soriot could “tarnish” AstraZeneca’s reputation after it was praised for selling the Covid-19 vaccine to countries around the world at cost.

Mr Soriot’s pay packet totalled £15.4m last year, of which more than £13m was in bonuses, but the proposed changes mean he could pocket even more in future.

The company wants to increase his maximum performance share plan awards, a bonus in the form of shares, from 550pc to 650pc of base pay.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing but has previously said the proposed changes will only bring Mr Soriot into the lower quartile of its global peer group. AstraZeneca said in February it met 21 shareholders and had good “feedback” on the proposals