COMMENT: Pfizer's 'no one likes us, we don't care' Millwall approach does not guarantee victory

My Week
  • @mrjamesashton

Usually the politicians weigh into sensitive takeover situations when it is all over bar the shouting. In the case of Pfizer's pursuit of AstraZeneca it is the science community that has been slow to air its views.

It made up for it this week, with such luminaries as University College London president Michael Arthur, former government drugs adviser David Nutt and Sir Bill Castell, chairman of the Wellcome Trust, warning against the damage the £63bn takeover could have on British science.

Doing my rounds, it is all any chief executive wants to gossip about. They all think the deal will go through in the end, even though some red-blooded investment bankers admit to twinges of doubt that this transaction should be passed solely on economic grounds, however "open for business" Britain boasts it is.

As the shouting gets louder, Pfizer appears to have adopted the Millwall strategy of "no one likes us, we don't care", following an initial flurry of meetings. It will be interesting to see how much chairman and chief executive Ian Read will concede before the Business Innovation and Skills Committee on Tuesday.

There is a theory that all opposition will fall silent when Mr Read unfurls his serious offer for AstraZeneca before the 26 May deadline. But as the collapse of the advertising industry merger between Publicis and Omnicom has shown, it takes more than the will of corporate titans and shareholder support to get the trickiest of deals over the line.