GlaxoSmithKline has announced that Emma Walmsley will take over from current chief executive Andrew Witty following his retirement at the end of March next year.

Walmsley is currently chief executive of the drug giant's Consumer Healthcare unit, one of the world's largest consumer health companies, born in 2015 following completion of GSK's three-way deal with Novartis.

She joined GSK in 2010 from a 17-year stint at L'Oreal, after holding a variety of marketing and general management roles in the UK, Europe and USA.

"Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major global businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare," said Philip Hampton, GSK chairman, who is currently heading an independent UK review on boosting the proportion of women into top-level management positions.

"Under Andrew's leadership, GSK has successfully developed into a company with market-leading positions in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare. These provide excellent platforms for sustainable, long-term growth, and we are confident Emma will successfully build on these strengths."

"We have momentum in the Group and as the demand for medical innovation and trusted healthcare products continues to rise, we have the opportunity and the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders," Walmsley said, commenting on her appointment.

GSK has a market value of £80 billion, which The Guardian notes is more than twice the size of the next biggest female-led group Imperial Brands, a tobacco business worth £37 billion.