Sir Andrew Witty nears his last Glaxo goodbye

The GlaxoSmithKline boss kept his title and won praise for slashing prices in poor countries – but his executives rather let him down in China

So it’s farewell to Sir Andrew Witty, the boss of pharma group GlaxoSmithKline and one of the few businesses knights who hasn’t disgraced himself enough to have a campaign to strip him of his title.

He’s been on one of those long City goodbyes where he announces he’s off but then stays for a lap of honour, and this week is the final time we will hear Glaxo’s full-year results with Witty at the helm.

It may be a decent time to wean himself off the attractions of the boardroom, too. Analysts at Berenberg muse: “Outside of the HIV business, the rest of the pharmaceuticals business is not expected to deliver much growth. However, GSK does have a deep pipeline, albeit at relatively early stages of development.”

So what will Witty be remembered for? Well, in development circles it will surely be his lauded decision to slash GSK’s prices in the poorest countries to no more than 25% of the UK price.

Yet others may recollect different events, including the company getting whacked with a £1.9bn fine in the US in 2012, after admitting bribing doctors – plus that memorable scandal shortly afterwards involving a GSK executive in Asia, a sex tape and favours given to Chinese doctors for using GSK products. Witty described the latter as “a disappointment”.

Three-decade fortune-telling? Thanks, PwC

There’s an old City joke about a long-term investment merely being a short-term one that went wrong.

It may be a bit of a stretch to adapt that crack to economic forecasting, but no matter: the dismal scientists are hardly in a position to complain about a touch of cavalier extrapolation.

Anyway, last week saw the latest press conference at which the Bank of England’s finest had to admit that Threadneedle Street had made a complete Horlicks of its economic predictions. (For what it’s worth, UK growth is now expected to be 2% this year rather than 1.4%.)

Undeterred, another bunch of economists at the accountancy firm PwC will this week publish an even more ambitious piece of economic crystal-ball gazing, when they publish research that attempts to predict the GDPs of the world’s richest nations, er, 33 years from now.

Their report, The World in 2050, could be one of three things: (a) an incredible triumph of hope over experience (confidence ranking high); (b) a fantastic piece of self-satire (less probable); or (c) a forlorn attempt to guess economic conditions that evening at 10 minutes to nine.

Respect, integrity, and another day in court

It’s a controversial thought, but sometimes you do have to love Barclays – the lender that routinely tells gags that make itself the butt of the joke.

It called itself the “go to” bank – and then became the place that financial regulators would go to when they needed to trouser a large fine. It then memorably placed in the foyer of its headquarters a series of perspex blocks emblazoned with the words “respect, integrity, service, excellence, stewardship” – so, say what you want about them, but Barclays bankers do not want for a sense of irony.

Anyway, if those ridiculous blocks aren’t good enough for you, Barclays has others it can deploy.

It was called to the high court on Friday because it had blocked access to documents relating to its legal battle with financier Amanda Staveley. (She’s arguing the many millions she was paid for helping save the bank from a taxpayer bailout should have been more. They say she’s talking nonsense.)

Mr Justice Leggatt was called in to referee, and he took the view that Barclays was being “wholly unreasonable and obstructive” to make Staveley wait, when it was demanding other documents itself.

The outcome? The documents will need to be handed over to Staveley tomorrow. Developing.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Barclays sees the beak about the bailout
Years after the event, the bank is due in court on Monday for a hearing into the fundraising it conducted in the maelstrom of the financial crsis

Shane Hickey

02, Jul, 2017 @4:54 PM

Article image
Barclays’ investment bankers have fallen out of the Premier League
In 2009, Bob Diamond and BarCap were the financial sector’s Man Utd. Now investors want the unit brought to heel

Rob Davies

28, Apr, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Banks may see higher tax as a price worth paying for economic stability
Third-quarter profits will be subdued, but many lenders will accept a tax raid to boost the public finances (and their own image)

Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

22, Oct, 2022 @11:05 PM

Article image
WPP needs a big name to follow Sir Martin Sorrell
The advertising giant can’t go on for ever as a one-man band

Simon Goodley

04, Jun, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Banks line up to reassure investors as season of turbulence subsides
First-quarter results for the UK’s big four will vary by exposure to volatile markets, but the boost from high interest rates won’t last

Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

22, Apr, 2023 @11:05 PM

Article image
Return to work: a sector-by-sector look at the plans of England's major employers
Companies can return to work from 1 August, but many employers are making their own plans

Joanna Partridge, Kalyeena Makortoff, Jillian Ambrose, Mark Sweney and Julia Kollewe

31, Jul, 2020 @5:01 AM

Article image
BT deserves credit – clawing back boss's bonus is common sense | Nils Pratley
It would have been outrageous for Gavin Patterson to get rewarded after BT’s Italian scandal and a big fine for overcharging

Nils Pratley

12, May, 2017 @6:44 AM

Article image
Time for an audit of the cosy life of accountancy’s big four
PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG dominate the auditing sector, but they are failing at their task

14, Oct, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Covid-19 is Big Pharma’s chance to impress. But who’ll do best?
AstraZeneca and GSK both release results this week. But picking winners in the sector may be complicated

Jasper Jolly

24, Jul, 2020 @11:05 PM

Article image
GlaxoSmithKline faces dose of strong medicine from US investor
This week’s lacklustre results will strengthen boss Emma Walmsley’s case for reform – but also inspire her critics

Julia Kollewe

24, Apr, 2021 @11:05 PM