Japan's Takeda banks on outsider CEO to take it to next level

Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:46am EST

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* Hasegawa wants Weber to come up with ideas in 3-6 months

* Major acquisitions not on cards, small bolt-ons possible

* Takeda pipeline weakened by diabetes drug setback in Dec

By Ben Hirschler

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Takeda Pharmaceutical , one of Asia's biggest drugmakers, expects the appointment of a foreign outsider as its planned next chief executive will take the 230-year-old Japanese group to the next level in going global.

Last month's decision to name Christophe Weber, a Frenchman who has never worked for Takeda, as chief operating officer and the intended successor to Yasuchika Hasegawa was seen as a bold move in an industry that has often looked inward in the past.

Yet Hasegawa, who will remain chairman, said the move was just a logical extension of the company's strategy.

"Our near-term strategy is to transform Takeda into a truly globally competitive company in every facet of its business. It's very simple. To make that happen we need a global standard of talent in each key position," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In the past, Takeda has reached outside its domestic market with some large deals, such as the acquisition of cancer specialist Millennium and a deal to buy Nycomed to boost its footprint in emerging markets.

Hasegawa said the time for such sizeable deals was "now over", although Takeda could look at small bolt-on buys in targeted areas.

Weber is joining from GlaxoSmithKline in April and Hasegawa said he wanted him to come up with ideas for changing Takeda "within three to six months".

Weber is not the first non-Japanese executive to take a top post at a Japanese company, but his position is unusual in that unlike Carlos Ghosn at Renault-Nissan or Howard Stringer at Sony he does not come from within the group.

"He's parachuting into our organisation which with 230 years of history has never had a non-Japanese top executive. I want him to take time to look into the organisation and find out the shortfalls and prioritise them," Hasegawa said.

"He needs to set aggressive but achievable targets."

Weber is joining at a testing time, since confidence in Takeda's pipeline of new drugs has been hit following the failure of a late-stage experimental diabetes drug in December after it was linked to liver problems.

Hasegawa acknowledged the scrapping of the medicine was a setback but he said the loss would not derail plans to grow sales at a mid-single digit percentage rate, while also expanding operating margins.

"We are right on track even though we have lost a late-stage compound," he said.

The group is pinning its hopes on a number of other new products, including an antidepressant developed with Denmark's Lundbeck, a treatment for ulcerative colitis, a new anti-obesity pill licensed from Orexigen and a follow-on to its successful cancer drug Velcade.

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