Yoshihiko Hatanaka, President of Astellas Pharma since 2011, has told everyone to “drop the G” for global from their titles and organisations. “60% of our employees, 65% of our turnover and 49% of our shareholders are overseas, so we really don’t need to specify ‘global’ in the way we work” he said in a recent interview with Nikkei Business magazine.
He acknowledges that Japanese pharmacos are still minor compared to the non-Japanese majors and says Astellas (ranked around 18-20th worldwide with $13bn revenue in 2015) does not have to grow to survive but instead focus on being a leading company in a few key areas of specialism, such as transplantation and urology. However Hatanaka worries that competition is fierce in oncology, another area Astellas sees itself as a leader in.
He has introduced new structures for research and also new management development programmes with an overseas university for general manager grades, 1/3 of participants being Japanese. There is also training for senior executive candidates in their late 40s and early 50s – “this may seem young, but it is not compared to other overseas pharmaceutical companies”. He does not deny it is possible there will be a non-Japanese President succeeding him.
Astellas is the product of a merger between Yamanouchi and Fujisawa in 2005, employing 4628 people in Europe, Africa and the Middle East as of 2015, around 500 of whom are in the UK, where the regional headquarters is based operationally (although the holding company is registered in the Netherlands). If Brexit results in the European Medicines Agency leaving the UK, presumably it is highly likely the balance will shift even more away from the UK and the regional headquarters will revert to the Netherlands both legally and operationally, unless they opt for an EMEA HQ = UK, Europe HQ in NL approach.
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