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AstraZeneca announces dividend hike ahead of CEO pay vote

Published 04/11/2024, 03:25 AM
Updated 04/11/2024, 04:22 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An AstraZeneca logo is pictured in Brussels, Belgium March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

By Eva Mathews

(Reuters) -Drugmaker AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) plans to raise its annual dividend by 7% for 2024, it said on Thursday, ahead of a shareholder vote on a hefty boost to its Chief Executive's pay package.

The No.2 London-listed company by market value said it will pay a dividend of $3.10 per share this year, taking into account other capital allocation priorities as well as previously announced acquisitions and business development.

Shareholders, meanwhile, are preparing to vote at the annual general meeting on a policy that could raise CEO Pascal Soriot's pay package by 1.8 million pounds ($2.26 million) to a maximum of 18.9 million pounds in 2024.

Influential proxy advisers Glass Lewis and ISS have urged shareholders to vote against the policy, according to reports.

"This uplift is in line with our progressive dividend policy, which remains unchanged, and reflects the continuing strength of AstraZeneca's investment proposition for shareholders," Chair Michel Demare said in a statement.

AstraZeneca intends to maintain or increase the dividend each year as part of that dividend policy.

"Shareholders won't be blind to the fact that this is a barely disguised sweetener, but it may quell appetites enough to get the divisive package through," said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"The bigger picture for Astra still centres on the work it does on rarer and more complex treatments – dominating this area of the market takes very deep pockets, and that doesn't appear to be under threat."

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has said it expects total revenue and core earnings per share (EPS) to increase by percentages in low double digits to low teens this year.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An AstraZeneca logo is pictured in Brussels, Belgium March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Shares in the FTSE 100 company have fallen 8.5% in the past 12 months. They ticked up 1.2% to 108.58 pounds on Thursday.

($1 = 0.7971 pounds)

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