AstraZeneca good, Pfizer bad? It's not as simple as that, unfortunately
Outlook If the future of AstraZeneca were to be decided by public relations, Pfizer would by now have departed these shores with its tail between its legs, never to return.
We like to think in terms of goodies and baddies and Pfizer has been cast firmly in the role of baddie. It's become the corporate pantomime villain we love to hate.
The immediate media reaction to yesterday's hearing of the Business Select Committee demonstrated that.
AstraZeneca's boss Pascal Soriot warned darkly that the disruption created by a merger could delay the development of vital new drugs and that people could die as a result.
Pfizer has already been successfully portrayed as a heartless and evil tax avoiding, asset stripping American corporate thug of the first order. Now it's much worse than that: now it's a corporate killer. Booo, hisssss. Pass out the rotten tomatoes. How long is it before Ukip pops up with an opportunistic cry of "send 'em back to where they came from"?
Here's the thing – and no, I'm not on Pfizer's payroll and I didn't have a conversation with its malfunctioning PR machine before writing this – Mr Soriot is throwing bricks from a glass house.
The clue is in the name: AstraZeneca. This is a company that was itself the creation of a mega-merger. Moreover, it has been heavily involved in wheeling and dealing just as Pfizer has, gobbling up a succession of smaller pharma firms over the years.
As the charge that Pfizer is a ruthless cost cutter, again, what of Astra? Faced with falling profits and the need to keep investors sweet, Astra's executives have also fallen back on the City's drug of choice – slashing costs and jobs, including research posts.
Moreover, while the "assurances" Pfizer has given about the UK don't amount to a hill of beans, yesterday's appearance before the committee by its chief executive and finance director says a lot. The committee has no powers of subpoena. When the bosses of food giant Kraft were invited to testify over their plans to eat Cadbury, they greeted the summons with raised middle fingers and stayed away before trampling over the assurances they had given about their plans when they won the day.
Pfizer is different. It wants to be here, and for the long term. And so it wants to play nice. In part, it's true, because the tax situation is favourable. But the reason we set it up like that was to encourage people like Pfizer to do business here. That's not to say Pfizer's plans are necessarily good for this country. This deal remains, on balance, a bad one for UK plc. And the apparent powerlessness (or inertia) of the Government in the face of Pfizer's activities given Astra's strategic importance to the UK should disturb us and spark an urgent debate.
But the debate that is currently being conducted around the merger itself has become dominated by half truth, illusion and spin. Pfizer is not quite the baddie it seems and Astra, whose chief executive has said he will accept a compelling offer, remember, is anything but the goodie.
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...