GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK)  

Glaxo Names Consumer Products Head Walmsley as Next CEO

Jack Duffy | FlashRatings | Tuesday, September 20, 2016 3:05 PM EDT
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Tuesday named Emma Walmsley, head of its consumer products group, to replace Andrew Witty as chief executive of Britain’s largest pharmaceuticals company.

Walmsley, 47, will be the only female chief executive of a global pharmaceuticals group and one of only seven women CEOs of FTSE 100 companies. She will take up the new role next March, the company said in a statement.

Walmsley joined GSK in 2010 after 17 years at the French cosmetics giant L’Oreal. With her background in marketing rather than science, her selection reinforces GSK’s recent shift toward consumer healthcare to reduce its dependence on pharmaceuticals. The consumer business headed by Walmsley, with brands like Sensodyne toothpaste and Panadol headache pills, now accounts for about a quarter of the company’s revenues.

Analysts showed little immediate reaction to Walmsley’s appointment but sentiment on the company has recently been mixed. Seven analysts have issued ratings on GSX in the last 30 days, with only 42% positive.

Some investors have been critical of GSK’s emphasis on consumer products rather than higher growth pharmaceuticals. Neil Woodford, a star UK fund manager and major GSK shareholder, told the BBC earlier this year that  “the sum of the parts is worth more than the current share price” of GSK.

Analysts at Citi said in a client note Tuesday that while some investors may have hoped for an external candidate, Walmsley’s appointment could still be favorable if she is “willing to critically assess GSK’s research and development productivity.”  

GSK shares closed little changed in London on Tuesday at 1,645 pence.