AstraZeneca chief attacks Pfizer’s £63bn takeover bid

Deputy business editor

AstraZeneca's chief executive has launched a staunch attack on Pfizer’s £63bn takeover plan, saying it would jeopardise its “fragile” but ambitious drug discovery programme.

Pascal Soriot declared the company would grow annual sales to more than $45bn by 2023 from the current $25.7bn thanks largely to its pipeline of new medicines being developed. It was just that process of creating new drugs that would be jeopardised by a takeover, he said.

“I have been through enough mergers to known a company is not a machine. It is a group of people. If you disrupt their work you can really have a negative impact very quickly.”

AstraZeneca has gone from a position of having 57 drugs in 2012 to 84 now, as it has moved quickly to boost its development programme. Analysts say that, as well as the UK tax status, is what attracted Pfizer to make its bid.

Mr Soriot said: “Our people are very experienced, motivated and excited about what we are doing. We believe we can make an impact on medicine at this time. We have recruited very talented people. When you do this you really want to remain focused on the job at hand. "

He added: "Any distraction, any disruption, could have a negative impact on our ability to develop these products. A pipeline is something that is very fragile. That is why we believe we are better off focused on what we are doing.”

His view chimes with those of many scientists who have spoken out against the huge disruption a takeover of one of Britain’s two key pharmaceuticals champions could have.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, an adviser to pharmaceuticals companies and  resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said: “You get really fundamental product breakthroughs when you have small groups of scientists working together on new areas of science over a period of many years. When companies do these mergers, it can break up these teams and break up the continuity.”

Mr Soriot said AstraZeneca’s shareholders had been supportive so far, adding: "We are in a race with many of our competitors to bring our products to the marketplace as quickly as possible. Anything that creates disruption has the potential to destroy value."

He was speaking just hours after the chief executive of top 10 AstraZeneca shareholder Aberdeen Asset Management backed the Labour leader Ed Miliband’s calls for a public interest investigation into the deal.

Aberdeen chief executive Martin Gilbert told The Independent: “AstraZeneca’s management has done a good job refocusing the business and as far as we’re concerned remaining independent remains a viable outcome.

“We do have to look at this in UK terms because it is so important for our research and development. It’s got to be about more than tax benefits.”

Earlier, he told the BBC: “Pfizer unfortunately has this reputation of being ruthless cost-cutters.”

Mr Soriot added that speed of decisionmaking was critical to bringing new drugs to market – a fleetness of foot that could be disrupted by a massive merger.

However, he declined to get pulled into the increasingly tense political atmosphere around the deal, although he acknowledged that he had been asked to participate in MPs’ select committee hearings. Both the business and science committees yesterday confirmed they would be conducting meetings with the industry including representatives from both Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed