GlaxoSmithKline: Hampton’s departure gives a sense of unfinished business

CGLytics’ examines the board expertise and director interlocks of GSK both pre- and post-appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds, following Philip Hampton’s resignation as Chairman.

This article examines GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise and director interlocks both prior and post the appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds; replacing Chairman Philip Hampton.

GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) announced in December 2018 the merger of its non-prescription drug and parapharmacy activities with those of the American giant Pfizer. The two labs are creating a GBP 10 billion joint venture, which will become the industry leader with GSK holding a majority of the shares – 68% and Pfizer a 32% holding. Within three years however, GSK plans to separate from this new entity and introduce it on the London Stock Exchange, placing Emma Walmsley as the CEO. There will therefore be a demerger project for GSK, aiming at separating their consumer health division (merged with Pfizer’s business) from their pharmaceutical and vaccines one. A lot of investors have been asking for this demerger over the past few years, however GSK is still in the middle of a transformation that is not quite complete.

The company intended, since 2015, to recover its Free Cash Flow (FCF) after the expenses arising from the costs of restructuration and integration of the Novartis deal. The company’s FCF is recovering quite well, with a GBP 5.7 billion in 2018 (+63% compared to 2017).

In January of this year, the Chairman of GSK, Philip Hampton, announced his decision to step down from his position after three and a half years and declared:

“Following the announcement of our deal with Pfizer and the intended separation of the new consumer business, I believe this is the right moment to step down and allow a new Chair to oversee this process through to its conclusion over the next few years.”

 

GSK announced their decision for a successor of Mr. Hampton, and it appears that Mr. Jonathan Symonds will be taking that role. Both individuals have different backgrounds and expertise. Mr. Symonds brings with him a strong pharmaceutical background together with corporate governance and corporate development experience. He was CFO of Novartis AG from 2009 to 2013 and prior to that CFO of AstraZeneca plc. He has been Deputy Group Chairman at HSBC Holdings plc since August 2018 and its Independent Non-Executive Director since April 2014. During his past experience, he has proven to be an expert of corporate changes. The most important transactions of Novartis (acquisition of Alcon) and AstraZeneca (acquisition of MedImmune) took place under his tenure. The experience Mr. Symonds brings with him added to his international finance knowledge make him a great fit for the upcoming challenges GSK will face.

The board expertise diagrams, produced directly from data and analytics in CGLytics’ platform, show GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise matrix before and after Symonds’ appointment. The information used for producing CGLytics’ expertise and skills matrices in the SaaS offering is standardized and applied consistency to more than 5,500 companies globally for easy comparison, analysis and benchmarking of boards composition.

GSK board expertise prior to Symonds 4

Looking at the current board composition of GlaxoSmithKline, the Board’s strongest expertise are International, Governance, Leadership and Executive. The Board however currently has no director with Technology expertise. Five directors, including Sir Philip Hampton, have Financial expertise, having served as Finance Director of BG Group Limited. The Chairman nonetheless lacks Industry expertise which is in line with what market watchers have said.

The chart below displays the company’s expertise with the coming of the new Chairman Mr. Symonds. Jonathan also brings with him Non-Executive, Financial, Executive, Governance expertise among others. However, he also brings with him Industry expertise having served as CFO of Novartis AG. With his addition, the board will still lack in the area of Technology expertise.

GSK board expertise with Symonds 4

Another interesting insight is that Hampton is not currently sitting on any other company’s board, unlike Symonds who is currently sitting on four different boards (including HSBC Holdings plc). One could easily argue about the effectiveness of that choice when it comes to availability and focus/time dedication for the heavy incoming agenda.

The UK Corporate Governance Code advises:

“Additional external appointments should not be undertaken without prior approval of the board, with the reasons for permitting significant appointments explained in the annual report. Full-time executive directors should not take on more than one non-executive directorship in a FTSE 100 company or other significant appointment.”

Glass Lewis, in their UK 2019 Proxy Paper Guidelines, recommends:

“Voting against a director who serves as an executive officer of any public company while serving on a total of more than two public company boards, and any other director who serves on a total of more than five public company boards.”

On the other hand, investment management company BlackRock Inc., top shareholder of GSK’s capital, shares in their 2019 Proxy Voting Policy document that they would:

“Expect companies to provide a clear explanation in situations where a board candidate is a director serving on more than three other public company boards; or a Chairman serving on more than two other public company boards (or only one if this is an additional chairmanship).”

Finally, the recommendations of GSK’s second largest shareholder – asset management group Vanguard – state that:

“A fund will vote against any director who is a Named Executive Officer (NEO) and sits on more than one outside public board.”

Additionally,

“A fund will also vote against any director who serves on five or more public company boards.”

Mr. Symonds is sitting on one other public company’s board (from which he will be stepping down from at the beginning of 2020) and does not hold any executive position, which means that he satisfies the previous recommendations. But at the same time, Symonds remains on the board of three private companies: Proteus Digital Health Inc. (Chairman), Genomics England Limited (Chairman) and Rubius Therapeutics Inc. (Non-Executive Director). Despite the fact that he’s satisfying all guidelines, we can question if his agenda will allow him to dedicate the optimal amount of time for all the changes GSK is about to face.

As a conclusion, we can obviously always find a rational explanation to Hampton’s resignation and highlight the benefits of Symonds’ arrival. But at the end of the day, we must remember everything Hampton has done since joining the company: he has replaced the CEO, has reorganized the Board of Directors and led one of the biggest corporate restructuring projects seen these past years.

What makes this resignation a big event, is that GSK is currently in a timeframe where it needs as much stability as possible on a management level. The massive projects that are being led rely on the company to be extra cautious with its many moving parts. Considering the time needed for the restructuring and demerger to be concluded, we can think Hampton should have ideally stayed until the very end and then recruited a board for each entity.

All the reasons lead to thinking of the possibility of activities being overshadowed to keep investors from worrying. However, GSK has been clear about the fact that Hampton decided to leave once the Pfizer deal was announced. There may never be light over the other possible reasons that pushed Hampton to resign.

For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you make better decisions, click here.

About the Author

Amine Chehab: European Research Analyst

Amine completed his Master’s degree in International Financial Analysis at INSEEC Bordeaux, France. As part of his studies, he also attended the University of California, Riverside as an exchange student. Previously, he gained experience in the field of finance as a Finance Business Analyst and Financial consultant. Most recently he worked as a Credit Manager Assistant.

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season

Barrick Gold Corp, Acacia Mining and Turbulence in Tanzania

Issues involving the mining industry and corporate governance practices are nothing new. And Barrick Gold’s recently deal with Acacia Mining is no exception. After multiple negotiations and tradeoffs in the past, Acacia Mining has agreed to Barrick, the majority shareholder, buying out the remaining minority shareholders.

Barrick Gold Corporation, based in Canada, is one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. It currently holds 262,246,950 shares of Acacia Mining (64% stake in share capital). To gain the remaining 36%, Barrick has proposed a 24.2% premium on the closing price of Acacia shares on July 18. The deal comes in at USD 430 million and will take the company private.

The Acacia CEO, after finally reaching an agreement, stated: “Given all the circumstances, this is possibly the best outcome.”

Perhaps more importantly, is that the deal aims to resolve many of the longstanding public issues between the Tanzanian government and Acacia that have plagued the mining company’s operations.

Two years ago, the Tanzanian government banned the export of mineral concentrates. This movement was due in part because the government believed they had not received a fair share of profits from mining in the country. Two of Acacia’s units came under fire, being handed a USD 190 billion tax bill from the government. This tax bill has since been reduced to USD 300 million.

Additionally, Tanzania recently demanded that Acacia cease use of a waste-storage facility at a core gold mine. These disruptions have crippled operations and caused Acacia’s shares to fall 50% since 2017.

After facing external pressures and at the insistence of minority shareholders, Barrick CEO, Mark Bristow, proposed a higher offer than what was initially proposed to Acacia in May. This was recently accepted.

Shareholder awareness proved a worthy factor here; Acacia shares rallied 20% on the deal and a positive response was received from the Tanzanian government. This is a fine example of shareholders prioritizing the survival of a company.

Delving into Acacia Mining’s board composition, by utilizing CGLytics’ board effectiveness tools in the online platform, provides insights into why the company may not have managed issues as effectively as possible.

Acacia Mining plc’s Board Expertise

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

The board expertise and skills matrix from CGLytics show that experience in the area of governance severely lacks, however industry and sector, and financial expertise is heavily present. This may provide an explanation to the problematic relations they experienced with the Tanzanian governance. It generates a question of if more governance experience was present on the board, would the situation have been different? While the survival of the company and acceptance of the “best-we-can-get” deal could be attributed to the strong presence of industry and financial expertise.

The recent movements have rekindled, if only just, a better relationship with the government. Because of Barrick’s increased involvement, the Tanzanian government agreed to receive USD 300 million for the tax debt as a gesture of goodwill. The company was also given the option to pay in installments, with an upfront cost of USD 100 million to be paid out in addition.

Furthermore, Barrick was able to negotiate an agreement in which payment to the Tanzanian government is dependent on the export ban being lifted from Acacia and its subsidiaries in the country. In a “give and take” action, the Tanzanian government also claimed a 16% stake in Acacia in the form of Class B shares.

The complex strategy devised is a clear manifestation of the board leveraging its expertise and abilities to secure a better position. Had there been more Governance oversight, perhaps the company would not have encountered such trifles. The devastating government backlash will certainly continue to have an effect for years to come. Nonetheless the Board can rest easy knowing that it has found the best outcome to a longstanding battle, one that could’ve left Acacia and Barrick incapable of recovering.

CGLytics offers the broadest, up to date global data set and powerful benchmarking tools to conduct comprehensive analysis for executive compensation decisions and risk oversight. CGLytics is Glass Lewis’ source for global compensation data and analytics. These analytics power Glass Lewis’ voting recommendations in both their proxy papers and their custom policy engine service. To find out more click here.

About the Author

Rollin Buffington

US Research Analyst

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season

The Billionaire Battle over Anadarko

Much noise has been made around the USD 38 billion hard-fought acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum by Occidental Petroleum and the hotbed of disagreement. An analysis of Occidental’s board, using CGLytics board insight tool, yields telling results.

Much noise has been made around the USD 38 billion hard-fought acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum by Occidental Petroleum (Oxy). Occidental’s CEO Vicki Hollub, in her race to beat Chevron for the acquisition, secured funding from Warren Buffett—USD 10 billion to be exact at 78% cash and 22% stock. This then allows Buffett to acquire 100,000 shares of cumulative perpetual preferred stock and an 8% dividend payout annually.

The deal was born out of Occidental’s board preferring to bypass an extraordinary shareholder meeting, wherein which the initial deal would have required a change of the Company Charter and a slim chance at a passing vote. Enter the second billionaire to the mix: Carl Icahn.

After getting wind of the deal, Icahn launched a lawsuit against Oxy on the grounds that the proposed acquisition was “fundamentally misguided and hugely overpriced.” There may be some truth to his assertion, with Oxy opening nearly 6% lower after the acquisition announcement.

Icahn accused Buffett of exploiting Oxy’s need for cash. Buffett is set to receive an 8% yield, far above Oxy’s pre-bidding 4.7%. This equates to a pre-tax cost of debt of around 10%, which is three times Oxy’s bond yield, and would put the company debt up to USD 40 billion.

In addition, Chevron decided against a counteroffer for Anandarko; thus, the company must now pay USD 1 billion in breakup fees to Chevron. It is also critical to note that this comes at a time when shareholders are calling for spending cuts and improved dividends.

As such, and perhaps the most glaring issue in the governance field, is the clear bypassing of shareholders’ voice by attempting to avoid an Extraordinary General Meeting of Shareholders (EGM).

Because of Buffett’s funding, Hollub and Oxy were able to exclude shareholder votes (as aforementioned). According to Icahn, this move was “disturbing” and “usurped the fundamental and critical role of the stockholders.”

Icahn, acting as the poster child for agitated shareholders, is calling for a restructuring of the board with seats of his own in order to ensure that Oxy acts in the best interest of shareholders. It seems apparent that the market and shareholders alike strongly disagree.

In current market conditions, Icahn has stated that the deal is a bet on the price of oil. Should oil prices fall below USD 45 per barrel, Occidental could be forced to cut dividends and once again defy shareholders. In turn, both Icahn and T. Rowe Price have agreed that the potential to put stockholder dividends at risk should first be cleared with the stockholders themselves.

An analysis of Occidental’s board, using CGLytics’ board effective and insights tool, yields telling results.

Occidental Petroleum Corporation’s Board Expertise

Source: CGLytics’ Board Effectiveness and Insights

Occidental’s board lacks significant expertise in two key areas extremely relevant to the recent deal; Financial and Industry/Sector. While there are a few financial experts, Audit and Capital Management skills particularly stand out as lacking in board discussions. Further, the lack of Financial expertise may certainly have ineffectively prepared the board to examine management’s agenda as well as properly evaluating the financial implications that come with the deal. Additionally, the Industry and Sector expertise appears inadequate; especially when considering the size of this acquisition.

The hotbed of disagreement over the deal is sure to play out in the coming weeks. It is possible that Hollub and Oxy avoided shareholder approval of such an acquisition of this scale because of the risk of disapproval at an EGM. Notwithstanding, Oxy resolved this issue by consulting Buffett.

Buffett saw opportunity arise out of the Company’s dilemma and divvied out premium funding. Now, Icahn demands a justification and correction of this supposed breach in shareholder rights. Following Icahn’s demand, Oxy will be holding a shareholder meeting on August 8th to determine the sentiment on this year’s biggest oil and gas deal. It is improbable that Icahn will win out on a lawsuit of this magnitude, especially when asking to gain seats on the board to prevent such deals in the future; but then again, it was equally unexpected that Occidental would attempt a merger with Anadarko.

Corporate boards and executive teams increasingly require insights and analytical tools to identify any potential areas of reputational risk. Without this oversight, companies may be targets of activist campaigns and cannot proactively prepare.

To learn more about how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you identify these areas of risk, click here.

SOURCES

THE MARKET REALIST
YAHOO FINANCE
CNBC

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season