AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Sir Tom McKillop, has put what he likely hopes will be an end to rumours that the company is set to sign a merger deal with fellow UK giant GlaxoSmithKline. In an interview with Reuters at the recent European Society of Cardiology meeting in Sweden, Sir Tom said: “We have no strategic need to be bigger – none at all. So there is no reason to engage in major M&A activity.”

Speculation has abounded since the announcement that Sir Tom is to step down from his role at the end of the year, and will be replaced by US head of operations David Brennan.

Sir Tom has been credited with enormous success since the merger of Zeneca with Sweden's Astra back in 1999, but has battled with several high profile disappointments in recent times, including the failure of its anticoagulant, Exanta (ximelagatran), to garner approval in the crucial US market, the failure of its cancer drug Iressa (gefitinib) to show a survival benefit in a key trial, and heightened scrutiny over its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) [[13/09/04a]], [[20/12/04b]], [[23/02/05c]].

As a consequence, AstraZeneca slashed Sir Tom bonus by 50% in 2004, citing recent "disappointing setbacks" as its underlying reasons [[23/02/05c]]. It has since been rumoured that Sir Tom will take over the helm at the Royal Bank of Scotland [[28/07/05a]].