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Saturday 30 August 2014

UK opposition raps Cameron for 'cheerleading' Pfizer bid

Svenja O'Donnell

Published 05/05/2014 | 02:30

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Britain's leader of the opposition Labour party, Ed Miliband, speaks on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in London yesterday

British opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband has attacked UK Prime Minister David Cameron for acting as a "cheerleader" for Pfizer's £63bn (€76bn) bid for London-based AstraZeneca.

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"David Cameron is in totally the wrong place on this issue," Mr Miliband, pictured right, said yesterday. "He has become a cheerleader for Pfizer's takeover when instead he should be championing AstraZeneca's long-term plan."

With only a year to go before the next general election, Mr Cameron's Conservative-led government is trying to avoid interfering in the proposed bid while acting to protect UK jobs and the future of British science.

AstraZeneca's board rejected Pfizer's £63.1bn sweetened offer for the UK's second-biggest drugmaker last week. A successful deal would create the world's largest pharmaceutical group and the takeover would be the largest ever in the sector.

Mr Miliband wrote to Mr Cameron yesterday to set out his concerns, saying a more thorough review is needed to determine if the takeover is in Britain's economic interest.

"We need a more substantive assessment of whether this takeover is in the national economic interest before the UK government allows itself to be seen to be supporting it," Mr Miliband said. In January 2010, the then-Conservative opposition used Kraft Foods' takeover of chocolatier Cadbury to portray a Labour government that was out of touch with the British people.

"AstraZeneca has a fantastic role in the British economy," Mr Cameron said last week. "Action on any merger is a decision for both companies. We've sought and received robust assurances from Pfizer should the deal go ahead."

Pfizer has pledged to retain 20pc of the combined company's total research and development workforce in the UK if its bid to buy AstraZeneca goes ahead.

AstraZeneca's board has said the renewed offer from Pfizer undervalued the company "substantially" and was not an adequate basis on which to engage with its suitor.

"Pfizer's proposal would dramatically dilute AstraZeneca shareholders' exposure to our unique pipeline and would create risks around its delivery," AstraZeneca chairman Leif Johansson said.

Should the board continue to rebuff Pfizer, it's possible the US company could mount a hostile takeover, taking the offer directly to AstraZeneca shareholders.

Irish Independent

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