Pfizer could ditch AstraZeneca takeover bid without UK Government's support

Deputy Political Editor

The American drugs giant Pfizer has signalled that it will abandon its proposed £63 billion bid for AstraZeneca if it fails to secure the British Government’s active support for the move, it has emerged.

The warning came as David Cameron tempered his previous strong support for what would be the biggest takeover in British corporate history.

Amid Coalition tensions on the issue, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has promised to adopt a “studiously neutral” approach to the potential acquisition.

He has also refused to rule out altering the public interest test to enable ministers to block takeovers that threaten the country’s scientific base.

The US conglomerate would be very unlikely to proceed with its bid in the absence of the Government’s blessing, the Bloomberg financial news agency reported, citing a source close to the deal.

Pfizer is said to have acknowledged that Britain could make the business environment much more difficult for the company, particularly in an industry as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals.

Read more: Pfizer tries to allay fears over £63bn Astra bid
Drugs may be a long-term business, but size matters
Sketch: Playing politics over Big Pharma
Comment: Backer has been wrong before on drugs firm deals
Comment: Shareholders to change their tune when money rolls in
 

Mr Cameron has been accused by Labour of “cheerleading” in his initial response to the planned takeover amid claims that Pfizer could cut jobs and erode the quality of scientific research in British laboratories.

Last week the Prime Minister said the Government had received “robust” assurances from Pfizer, while Tory ministers reacted enthusiastically to the possible merger.

But Mr Cameron told MPs yesterday that he wanted further commitments on jobs and investment from the American company in continuing talks over the bid.

He described criticism of his handling of the proposed deal as “extraordinary”, but added: “Let me be absolutely clear, I’m not satisfied, I want more. But the way to get more is to engage, not to stand up and play party politics.”

Labour is calling for amendment to the Enterprise Act to give the Government the ability to veto acquisitions of UK companies conducting scientific research. It has said it is prepared to force a Commons vote on the change, which it says can be achieved through secondary legislation.

In heated exchanges, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: “If you do not take action now, and the bid goes through without a proper assessment, everyone will know you were cheerleading for this bid, not championing British science and British industry.”

Mr Cameron sidestepped the call for altering the Act and retorted: “I think it is deeply sad the leader of the Opposition makes accusations about cheerleading when what the Government was doing was getting stuck in to help British science, British investment and British jobs.”

Tory sources have claimed Mr Miliband faces questions over his impartiality after it emerged that Baroness Vadera, a Labour donor and a party donor, sits on AstraZeneca’s board of directors, which has turned down three Pfizer bids.

It has also been disclosed that Mark Textor, an Australian strategist who has worked for the Conservatives, has also advised Pfizer. His business partner, Lynton Crosby, is Mr Cameron’s election campaigns director.

Bosses from Pfizer and AstraZeneca will be cross-examined on the impact of a potential deal by two Commons select committees on successive days next week.

Ian Read, the Pfizer chairman and chief executive, and Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, have been summoned by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee on Tuesday and the Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

The latter will also question David Willetts, the science minister, about the Government's position.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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 General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn