Neil Woodford launches fresh attack on GlaxoSmithKline

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Neil Woodford has criticised GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Andrew Witty and called for a radical shake-up of the pharmaceutical giant.

Speaking at the AJ Bell Investival conference in London yesterday, the star fund manager said: “Glaxo has been a very disappointing investment for me for a very long time and the hopes that I had for that business have really been dashed over the years.”

He added: “I think the corporate structure is wrong, I think the business needs to focus on one or two of the businesses that it has in its portfolio at the moment.”

Woodford has previously urged GSK to split up to reassure shareholders on the firm’s profitability.

Woodford said: “I think the company should focus on what it ought to do well, which is basically pharmaceuticals and vaccines and I think it should spin or sell its consumer healthcare business and that is what I’ve been saying for a long time.”

Since 2008, GSK has been focusing on vaccines and consumer products rather than on highly priced prescription drugs, believing the strategy would bring more returns.

Woodford said: “You know as much as I do that running a FTSE 100 company is a very challenging business. In essence, Andrew Witty is running four FTSE 100 companies and he’s not doing a very good job in my view.”

The manager is pushing GSK to explore a formal separation of the HIV business ViiV, the company consumer healthcare division and Stiefel, its dermatology division, from the firm’s core medicines and vaccines unit.

However, despite his disappointment, Woodford said he retained GSK in his portfolio as he believes there is “a huge unlocked value in the business”, and has also recently increased his allocation in the company.

As of the end of September, the £7.07bn CF Woodford Equity Income fund held 6.12 per cent of the fund in GSK.