New AstraZeneca CFO Fills Big Shoes

A former Scottish Power executive steps in for Jonathan Symonds, who led the pharmaco to being the first company to adopt International Financial R...
Stephen TaubSeptember 28, 2007

AstraZeneca has named Simon Lowth as CFO, replacing Jonathan Symonds, who abruptly resigned in June to join Goldman, Sachs as a managing director.

Lowth, who will be responsible for AstraZeneca’s finance and information services, joins the drug company from Scottish Power PLC, where he was finance director. He’s credited with playing a major role in the rejection of a 2005 offer by E.On to buy Scottish Power, as well as with negotiating a successful bid from Iberdrola SA in November 2006. He also led Scottish Power’s groupwide performance and risk-management processes. Lowth left the company in May following completion of its sale to Iberdrola. Before joining Scottish Power, he spent 15 years with McKinsey & Co.

Lowth is filling a big pair of shoes. As Zeneca’s finance director, Symonds was credited with overseeing the merger that created AstraZeneca. A former chairman of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors, the body that represents the CFOs and finance directors of the United Kingdom’s largest companies, Symonds also made AstraZeneca the first company to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards.

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Under Symonds, the London-based pharmaco was among the top three European firms in financial reporting turnaround time last year, providing audited results in just 33 days. He made news this year when he and other European CFOs complained about voluminous requests from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding how their International Financial Reporting Standards–based filings translate into U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Symonds accused the SEC of setting itself up as “judge and jury” over international companies’ financial statements.

Goldman hasn’t disclosed Symonds’s role at the investment bank; in fact, it didn’t even officially announce his appointment. But the investment-banking giant certainly was familiar with his work, having advised Zeneca in its $34 billion merger with Astra. Before joining Zeneca, Symonds was a partner at KPMG, leading its chemical and pharmaceutical industry practice in the United Kingdom.