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AstraZeneca takeover: Cameron 'must intervene' in Pfizer's bid


David Cameron has come under renewed pressure to intervene in Pfizer’s £63 billion takeover bid for AstraZeneca after Swedish ministers said it was important for the UK to influence the “semi-hostile” approach.

The comments came as Astra’s chief executive Pascal Soriot told the London Evening Standard that “a merger could be disruptive” to potential new cancer medicine breakthroughs, adding: “There is no amount of ring-fencing [of research] you can do to address that.”

Sweden’s finance minister Anders Borg and enterprise minister, Annie Lööf, similarly warned that Pfizer’s potential takeover was “not in the interest of important life-science research in Sweden, in the UK or elsewhere.”

The ministers wrote in the Wall Street Journal  that Pfizer’s jobs guarantees in its “semi-hostile” takeover “do not seem to be sufficient.”

They added: “Pfizer has a history of quickly and sharply cutting staff in the wake of acquisitions” and said nearly 100,000 employees had been sacked by the US giant since 1999.

They concluded: “AstraZeneca’s owners should seriously consider rejecting Pfizer’s proposal.”

AstraZeneca has some 5900 employees in Sweden and has become the nation’s top corporate taxpayer since the country’s Astra merged with Zeneca of the UK  15 years ago.

A deal by Pfizer, which is expected to table an improved bid within days, would be the biggest foreign takeover in British history, but David Cameron has indicated his confidence in Pfizer’s jobs pledges, such as a fifth of the combined drugmaker’s research roles being in the UK for the next five years, means he will take a hands-off approach to any bid.

He added: “Britain benefits massively by being an economy that is open to overseas investment.”

Soriot, who is today visiting more investors to build up support for independence, maintained “this deal is not inevitable”, elaborating that a “lot of people think this is a done deal and a question of price [but] we are actually very confident we can create shareholder value on our own”.

It has emerged that Pfizer chief Ian Read and top scientist Mikael Dolsten sold more than $12 million (£7 million) of their shares in the drugmaker just two months ago, The Independent revealed.