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AstraZeneca appoints new chairman

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker appoints Leif Johansson, chairman of Ericsson and former chief executive of truckmaker Volvo

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca has appointed Swedish executive Leif Johansson from telecoms group Ericsson as chairman.

The company had been struggling to find a replacement for Louis Schweitzer and said last month that he would stand for re-election at the annual meeting on 26 April. It also announced that its Mediummune division had won approval in the US for FluMist Quadrivalent, the first seasonal flu vaccine to provide protection against four strains of the virus in a single shot.

The news was a welcome boost to Britain’s second-largest drugmaker, which has been hit by a series of failures of experimental drugs intended to replace blockbuster medicines whose patents expire. The company, which was formed from the 1999 merger of Sweden’s Astra and the UK’s Zeneca, has slashed nearly 30,000 jobs worldwide since 2007, with Sweden bearing the brunt of the latest cuts to its research and development staff.

“I imagine [Johansson's appointment] will be well received by our Swedish employees,” said a spokeswoman.

Johansson, who has been chairman of Ericsson since last April, will replace Schweitzer in September. He is a former chief executive of truckmaker Volvo and home appliances maker Electrolux, both Swedish companies. He also sat on the board of US pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb as a non-executive director from 1998 until last September.

Former Barclays chief executive John Varley, who chairs AstraZeneca’s remuneration committee, will also become a senior independent non-executive director at the annual meeting in April.

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