James Moore: Should government step in over the AstraZeneca bid?

Hunting season is officially open for America’s gun totin’ multinationals.

General Electric is looking to land a trophy in France, while Pfizer’s now officially come to Britain in the hopes of hauling something back to hang above the doors of its corporate headquarters.

Care to guess who’s having an easier time of it?

France, of course, was the nation that decided yoghurt was a strategic national asset, thus keeping Danone out of the cross hairs of the likes of Pepsi or Kraft, both of which have at various times been linked to possible bids for the company.

True to form, the French Government has warned GE that it will block any bid for engineering group Alstom that it doesn’t like. That might just mean any bid at all from GE, whatever its chief executive Jeff Immelt had to say when he met with French President Francois Hollande given France’s preference for a European solution.

By contrast the question Pfizer has raised about AstraZeneca’s future as an independent company here is being brushed off as a commercial matter between two companies. Even if it concerns a sector - pharmaceuticals - deemed strategically vital to Britain’s future economic prosperity.

Let’s make one thing clear from the outset. I’m not about to argue for importing France’s approach to takeovers into Britain, not least because granting companies a pass when it comes to bids grants their managers a pass when it comes to doing their jobs.

UK plc needs the complacency in the boardroom this can generate like teenaged boys need Pfizer’s Viagra.

The banking crisis is a graphic demonstration of the damage that can be caused by the self regard and hubris of a corporate elite in a sector deemed vital to Britain’s economic future when it is coddled and cosseted.

And it’s worth mentioning here that Astra hasn’t been immune from the practice of handing over outsized packages for undersized performance.

It has, in truth, been trying the patience of its shareholders for some time now and while it has some very interesting potential treatments in development - such as the cancer treatments that utilise patients’ own immune systems to fight the disease - investors could be forgiven for questioning whether the senior figures the company has in place are capable of delivering on the promise these may offer.

It’s even debatable as to whether AstraZeneca should be considered a British company. Its operations are global and it’s run by a Frenchman. Pfizer is no different. It’s run by a Brit and such is its loyalty to Uncle Sam that it prefers to spend the billions it has stashed overseas on an expensive and potentially value destructive deal with Astra rather than bring overseas profits home and pay tax on them.

All the same, it is disturbing that these points are scarcely being discussed in the corridors of power. Whether this deal is good for Britain - and the two companies combined employ thousands of people here - will, as is so many previous examples, have no influence whatsoever on whether the deal ultimately gets done. Perhaps we should think about changing that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Market Risk Manager - Investment Banking - Mandarin Speaker

£45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain