Market Report: Pfizer could make second run at AstraZeneca


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The Independent Online

The City was awash with speculation pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca could become the target of a bidding war after news of a failed approach by Viagra-maker Pfizer. Reports emerged over the weekend that Pfizer's £50-a-share approach had been rejected by Astra and yesterday news bubbled up that the US major could be preparing a second run at £60.

Meanwhile there was chatter that Swiss drugs giant Novartis and French pharmaceutical company Sanofi are looking to muscle in. Both have reportedly hired advisers to look at a potential offer for AstraZeneca, with £55 a share discussed as a likely price from Sanofi. Novartis declined to comment, while Sanofi could not be reached.

The rumours helped AstraZeneca, which updates tomorrow, put on 178.5p to 3960p. Wider optimism in the sector saw pharmaceuticals add 29.82 points to the FTSE 100, which closed at its highest level in just over two weeks, up 56.51 at 6681.76.

Russian gold and silver miner Polymetal reassured investors over its future in London yesterday. Russia has called for the "deoffshorisation" of companies listed abroad but Polymetal, which has a secondary listing in Moscow, said it is "committed" to its UK listing. But weak gold prices meant revenue declined slightly and it fell 5.5p to 608p.

Circassia, the Oxford-based company working on a cure for allergies to cats, jumped 9p to 293p after Canaccord Genuity and JPMorgan initiated coverage of the recently floated company. Canaccord thinks the technology could "rapidly expand the immunotherapy market".

Another recent market entrant, Pets at Home, was also on the move after Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Nomura all initiated coverage with a buy rating. Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, which has been quietly building a stake since the pet retailer listed last month, revealed it had upped its stake to 5 per cent. Pets at Home added 7.25p to 216.5p.

GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes medicines from marijuana, climbed 81p to 305.5p after Morgan Stanley started coverage with an overweight rating, backing its chances in the US.