GSK to quit landmark London HQ as £70bn drugmaker pushes the button on break-up

·2-min read
GSK House was opened by Tony  Blair in 2002 (GSK)
GSK House was opened by Tony Blair in 2002 (GSK)

Healthcare giant GSK has pressed the button on its £70 billion break-up with plans to put its global corporate HQ in west London up for sale.

The announcement marks a significant step in a four-year odyssey to carve the drug-maker’s empire into two separately listed FTSE 100 companies.

Around 800 staff working for the consumer healthcare division will move from GSK House in Brentford to a new £120 million campus in Weybridge.

The planned Consumer Health campus in Weybridge (GSK)
The planned Consumer Health campus in Weybridge (GSK)

They take with them nine power brands including Sensodyne, Aquafresh, Nicorette and Panadol whose £10 billion annual revenues will underpin the standalone company.

Plans for the new campus are being submitted to authorities in Surrey this week. Staff will work in temporary offices nearby until it is built.

The process of appointing a chair to assemble a board for the demerged firm under CEO designate Brian McNamara is under way.

Under pressure: GSK chief Emma Walmsley (GSK)
Under pressure: GSK chief Emma Walmsley (GSK)

The remaining 3500 employees will stay on at GSK House - a landmark tower overlooking the M4 - for at least two years as a search is launched to find smaller offices nearby.

Following the split, they will work for New GSK, a dedicated pharmaceuticals and drug research firm.

Affected staff at the FTSE 100’s sixth- biggest company, which employs 95,000 people worldwide, were being informed of the moves this morning. 

GSK has long been under pressure over its under-performing drugs pipeline and share price. 

CEO Emma Walmsley intends to lead the new biopharma business to restore its reputation as a world leader in vaccine and immunology research.

New GSK has set targets of 5% sales growth and 10% increase in profit by 2026, aiming for £33 billion in revenues by the end of the decade to offset the imminent loss of exclusivity over a cluster of blockbuster drugs including the £4.7 billion-a-year HIV inhibitor dolutegravir.

Sources insist that although the announcement was being made before alternative offices have been identified, the timing is in line with Walmsley’s schedule first published three years ago.

GSK House during London 2020 (GSK)
GSK House during London 2020 (GSK)

It comes a few days after an update call between GSK chair Jonathan Symonds and investors where Gordon Singer, head of feared hedge fund Elliott’s London office, is said to have pressed for acceleration.

Elliott and Bluebell, another activist investor, have both questioned Walmsley’s suitability to run the biopharma unit, given her non-science background, and called for a search for an alternative. 

They have also pressed for the group to be more open to an outright sale of the consumer division.

GSK House was built at a cost of £315 million and officially opened in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

McNamara said: “Today’s announcement is an important step as we prepare for separation.”

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