At JP Morgan this year, we encountered an odd and awkward phenomenon, a Big Pharma CEO/CFO who appears to wish that they worked someplace other than in the pharmaceutical industry. GSK‘s CFO Simon Bingemans, in his twenty minute presentation, uttered neither the word ‘drug’ nor ‘pharmaceuticals.’ The closest that he came to mentioning this category, which consitutes 67% of GSK’s business, were a few references to “vaccines.” But otherwise, the entire presentation featured a detailed and not-compelling-in-the-least tour of GSK’s new ‘Financial Architecture’, which offered repeated references to ‘improved efficiencies,’ debt load, and ‘working capital.’ Had we come in late, there would have been virtually no clue as to what might constitute the contents of GSK’s pipeline: Video games for emerging markets? Athletic shoes that light up in the dark? Cat food for the underserved ‘pet segment’? We hope that GSK’s CFO simply had misplaced a couple pages from his presentation, hence the eye-widening error of omission. If not, he’d better set to the task of writing them, or hire someone else to do so; this is not an endeavor where the rallying-cry is ‘may the best spreadsheet win.’
Postscript: the original edition of post referred to the GSK presenter as CEO Andrew Witty–it was in fact their CFO who gave the presentation. But otherwise the point stands–several pharma companies have their CFO’s present at JPM–but only GSK’s gave a presentation that was this generically removed from the pharma core.