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Pfizer in Battle for Britain’s AstraZeneca
Pfizer, the U.S. big pharma drugmaker is trying to secure its next move with its $100 billion fight for Britain’s AstraZeneca PLC. Pfizers’ rejection of two bids, have investors on both companies at the edge of their seats as deal making clutches the healthcare industry. Pfizer said on Monday it made a 58.8 billion pounds ($98.9 billion) bid approach to AstraZeneca in January and had contacted its British rival again on April 26, seeking to further discuss a takeover. Pfizer purchasing AstraZeneca would improve Pfizer’s pipeline of cancer drugs and create powerful cost and tax savings. Shares for AstraZeneca were up 13 percent. The deal would be the biggest foreign acquisition of a British firm and one of the biggest Pharmaceutical deals.
Under British takeover rules, Pfizer has until May 26 to announce a firm intention to make an offer or back away. Pfizer chief Executive, Ian Read, told reporters, “Society wants products faster, they want more products and they want value; the industry is responding to society’s request for increased efficiencies and productivity.” Read also said AstraZeneca had declined to engage in talks and the U.S. group was now considering its options, but he remained convinced that combining the two companies made strategic sense and would benefit AstraZeneca investors. According to U.S. analysts, Read said that since the initial approach to AstraZeneca four months ago, both companies have seen experimental drugs fare well in trials. At the same time, Pfizer concluded it was too difficult to pursue big deals domestically while being on the hook for higher U.S. tax rates. “We’re coming from a position of strength, on our near-term pipeline” of experimental drugs, Read said.
AstraZeneca said Pfizer’s suggested offer undervalued the company “very significantly,” adding that Pfizer wanted to pay 70 percent in shares and only 30 percent in cash. AstraZeneca urged it’s shareholders to take no action and said it remained confident of it’s independent strategy. On January 5, Pfizer’s original proposal made to the board of AstraZeneca would have valued AstraZeneca shares at 46.61 pounds each-a premium of 30 percent at the time. AstraZeneca said the proposal comprised 13.98 pounds in cash and 1.758 Pfizer shares for each AstraZeneca share.Dan Mahony, a fund manager at Polar Capital, said “My guess is it will go for somewhere between 50 and 55 (pounds a share), I doubt Pfizer will want to go completely hostile.” Industry analysts said Pfizer was likely to have to offer more than in January due to a run-up in AstraZeneca shares since then, so the value of any new offer could be above $100 billion.
Tim Anderson, an analyst at brokerage Bernstein, said AstraZeneca shareholders could be happy with a deal that gave them a hefty financial return, but Pfizer’s investors might have more mixed views about the wisdom of another very large deal. Pfizer is hoping to combine the two drugmakers under a new UK-incorporated holding company, although the head office and stock market listing would remain in New York. But word of the suggested deal has worried many about jobs in Britain’s drug sector. AstraZeneca has already laid off thousands of workers as they shrink cost base to cope with a fall in sales due to patent losses on blockbuster medicines, while Pfizer has blocked a research site in Sandwich, Southern England.
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Image Credit: thetimes.comPfizer in Battle for Britain's AstraZeneca by Jaan