Pfizer defends plan to acquire AstraZeneca

Pfizer defended the business case behind its plan to acquire AstraZeneca yesterday and questioned the UK company’s ability to stand alone for much longer as the US group’s CEO prepared for a grilling from British MPs.

Pfizer defends plan to acquire AstraZeneca

Pfizer said its agreement to complete AstraZeneca’s research centre in Cambridge, retain a factory in northwest England, and put a fifth of its research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead, were legally binding.

The comments are Pfizer’s latest counter to critics of its proposed £60bn (€73.5bn) deal, which would be the largest foreign takeover of a British firm and is opposed by many scientists and politicians — as well as AstraZeneca itself.

With its bid the subject of heated debate, the US drugmaker took a harder line yesterday, saying the merger would create “a UK-based scientific powerhouse”.

It also took a swipe at AstraZeneca’s go-it-alone strategy by arguing that Britain’s second biggest pharmaceuticals business lacked the financial muscle to make the most of its experimental medicines.

“Looming patent expiries and near term revenue losses jeopardise its ability to deliver on its very promising pipeline,” Pfizer said in a written submission to a parliamentary committee.

Pfizer’s Scottish-born CEO Ian Read faces tough questions from MPs today about his plans to acquire AstraZeneca — a deal driven in large part by Pfizer’s wish to cut its tax bill.

MPs will also interrogate AstraZeneca’s French CEO Pascal Soriot and Business Secretary Vince Cable. Then a second committee tomorrow will question both CEOs again, along with UK science minister David Willetts, about the science aspects of the deal.

In response to worries about safeguarding the British company’s research, Pfizer’s research & head Mikael Dolsten posted a video on Pfizer’s website saying he had been through five different mergers which did not disrupt drug research.

“If you keep your sense of curiosity and an open mind, you can learn tremendously.

“We must stay laser-focused on our important projects. And that’s, of course, true for Pfizer scientists and AZ scientists and will be true also if we can make a potential combination come together.”

There is scepticism about Pfizer’s long-term commitment to British jobs. But it said the fact it had made the vows as part of its offer made them legally binding.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday he had made “very good progress” in securing guarantees from Pfizer, though the firm’s latest statements contained no new offers.

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