Comment: Bitter pill for GlaxoSmithKline boss

Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL

Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL

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ONE thing is for sure: Sir Andrew Witty, boss of drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, will not be worrying just now about the future of its soft drinks Lucozade and Ribena.

There has been more speculation that they may be sold to Irn-Bru maker AG Barr, but Witty has other, more pressing, matters on his mind.

The growing bribery allegations in China have thrown the management team based there into chaos, with one executive banned from leaving the country and others in detention.

Witty has now stood down from a key UK government advisory board. The company claims his term was due to end anyway, but not until the end of the year and the timing of the announcement is damaging as it will only add to both his and the company’s embarrassment. The accusations against GSK are part of a widespread anti-corruption crackdown by the Chinese authorities, and, while they deny targeting foreign companies, this episode is unlikely to help build relations between China and westerners.

GSK has apologised for what the People’s Daily referred to as the promotion of sales in a “dirty and devious way”, but that alone will not be enough to bring an end to this saga. It is by no means the first scandal to have engulfed GSK or the pharmaceuticals sector but for Witty to resign a government post – whether coincidental or not – has only added to the sense of crisis surrounding the company.

It may help avoid compromising the coalition, but it has also turned the spotlight firmly on himself.

Carney sets the tone but is he dove or hawk?

the new Bank of England governor Mark Carney is beginning to establish a template for future strategy and the latest addition to the monetary lexicon will be “forward guidance”.

He was expected to demand a more flexible approach to policy including the use of other instruments beyond those employed by his predecessor.

The minutes of his first meeting of the bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) earlier this month suggest the focus will be more on interest rates than on seeking extra quantitative easing.

We were given an unprecedented statement after that meeting and it would appear that proper Federal Reserve style “guidance” will be issued on 7 August alongside the Inflation Report rather than after the MPC’s next meeting on 1 August as some had expected.

Even so, it remains unclear whether Carney is ready to impose full rate guidance which would set a longer-term tone and specific threholds, or stick with monthly statements.

The markets are keen to see more of the former, with targets set for unemployment and possibly a slightly higher rate of inflation.

The 9-0 vote at the July meeting was a surprise as most commentators expected a 6-3 split. It seems the doves who called for more QE have accepted the need for a broader discussion of policy ahead of next months’s session.

What is not clear is which camp Carney sits in: hawk or dove? That should become clearer in a few weeks’ time.

Bigger effort required if Wonga’s on the shirt

THOUGHT for the day (from a tweeter): Will footballers pulling on shirts sponsored by Wonga have to give 1,600 per cent?

Twitter: @TerryMurden1

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