Pfizer boss Ian Read flies in to put AstraZeneca takeover case to MPs

The pharmaceutical giant's chairman and chief executive, and his AstraZeneca counterpart, will appear before the Commons Business Committee this week

Lou Boyd
Sunday 11 May 2014 10:52
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The chief executive of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will arrive in the UK tomorrow to persuade the Government that its £60bn-plus hostile takeover of British rival AstraZeneca should be allowed.

Concern has been raised that what would be the biggest ever corporate takeover in the UK could result in the loss of thousands of skilled jobs and damage British research. The Government can block such deals in exceptional circumstances if the public interest is at risk, although lawyers have said intervention in this case is unlikely to comply with European trade laws.

Pfizer's chairman and chief executive, Ian Read, and his AstraZeneca counterpart, Pascal Soriot, will appear before the Commons Business Committee on Tuesday and the Science and Technology Committee the next day. The science committee will also question Science Minister David Willetts.

While Pfizer has given assurances that it would keep at least 20 per cent of the combined companies' research and development workforce in the UK for at least five years and base its European headquarters in Britain, David Cameron has said he is "not satisfied".

Mr Read said in a video on the company website: "I see this as a win-win for society, a win-win for shareholders, and a win-win for stakeholders."

He also said the deal would "liberate the balance sheet and tax" of both companies.

The Chancellor George Osborne, said yesterday he would make sure Pfizer executives gave "real promises that we can hold them to".

"I'm also prepared to get in the room and have a hard negotiation with very large companies and be very, very hard-nosed about what we want to deliver in terms of good British science and good British jobs," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable saying there is "wide concern … across the business and science communities about the deal". "The assurances Pfizer has given are not worth the paper they are written on, given that Pfizer has since refused to rule out breaking up AstraZeneca and selling off parts of it in the future," he said.

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