Shire CFO leaves for Severn Trent after AbbVie buyout falls through

James Bowling quitting to take over CFO role at Severn Trent

FTSE 100 pharmaceuticals giant Shire has had its finance director poached by water firm Severn Trent, days after the collapse of its $55 billion (£32 billion takeover) by US rival AbbVie.

Shares in Dublin-based Shire plunged by a quarter last week after AbbVie  walked away from its planned buy-out because of the US Treasury’s new rules banning US firms taking over foreign businesses to move their tax domiciles overseas and cut their bill.

Today they slipped again — down 41p to 3739p — as the ADHD drug specialist admitted that James Bowling, Shire’s interim finance director, is quitting to take over that role permanently at Severn Trent.

Bowling took on the job at Shire in February when its finance director at the time, Graham Hetherington, stepped down.

Today Shire said it will start a search for a replacement finance director “immediately”, with Danish chief executive Flemming Ornskov adding: “James has helped build and lead a high-quality finance team at Shire.”

 

The departure comes at a difficult time for Shire as the drugmaker is known to be considering various acquisition options in the US after the collapse of the AbbVie deal.

It will have an extra $1.6 billion in its war chest, thanks to break fees payable by AbbVie, and Shire is thought to have reopened talks with targets including rare-disease specialist NPS and Cubist, a US firm behind a medicine that tackles the hospital superbug MRSA.

As Jefferies analyst Peter Welford wrote: “Including the potential break fee from AbbVie, Shire could be even more favourably positioned to execute its own acquisition strategy.”

Bowling will not leave until the end of the first quarter of 2015. That’s also when Severn Trent will see Bowling — who has been Shire’s group financial controller since 2008 — take up his new position at the utility.

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The appointment is the first major hire for Liv Garfield, pictured, the former BT Broadband boss who joined Severn Trent earlier this year.

Garfield said Bowling will replace Mike McKeon, who is retiring after almost a decade years running the utility’s finances. She is also cutting the board from 11 directors to eight.

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