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Drugmaker GSK ends chairman search with HSBC's Symonds

(Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline has appointed HSBC’s Jonathan Symonds to succeed Philip Hampton as non-executive chairman, ending a six month search as the drugmaker prepares to split its businesses into two.

FILE PHOTO: The GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) logo on top of GSK Asia House in Singapore, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Loriene Perera/File Photo

GSK had been on the hunt for a new chairman since its announcement in January that Hampton would step down after more than three and a half years in the role and is set to fold its consumer business into a joint venture with Pfizer.

Incoming chairman Symonds is currently deputy group chairman at banking group HSBC, where he has also been an independent non-executive director since April 2014.

He has formerly been finance chief at GSK rivals Novartis and AstraZeneca.

“Jon has exceptional experience in life sciences and in the financial management and governance of major, global companies,” said GSK director Vindi Banga said in a statement.

Hampton, who was chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and J Sainsbury plc before joining GSK, took the role at the drugmaker just after a profit warning in 2014 and was tasked with helping steer it back to sustainable growth.

GSK has warned that generic competition for its blockbuster asthma drug would hurt profit this year.

However, its shingles vaccine has proven to be a key growth driver under a leaner structure which Chief Executive Emma Walmsley has spearheaded by spinning off or selling units to focus on reinvigorating GSK’s pharmaceuticals business.

The company said that Symonds would receive annual remuneration of 700,000 pounds ($873,390), which would include 525,000 pounds in cash and the remainder in GSK shares.

The fee is similar to what Hampton was paid in 2018, according to GSK's annual report here.

HSBC separately said that Symonds would stay on as an independent non-executive director with the banking group until February 2020.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman/Keith Weir