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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
people
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
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

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star