Wednesday 21 February 2018

Pfizer defends 'powerhouse' AstraZ deal

Ian Read, chief executive officer of Pfizer, has questioned AstraZeneca's ability to stand alone in the market
Ian Read, chief executive officer of Pfizer, has questioned AstraZeneca's ability to stand alone in the market
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's French CEO
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

PFIZER has moved to defend its planned takeover of British drug-maker AstraZeneca, describing the combined company as a scientific powerhouse.

The pharmaceutical giant also questioned AstraZeneca's ability to stand alone for much longer as the New York-based group's CEO prepared for a grilling from British lawmakers.

Scottish-born chief executive Ian Read, Mikael Dolsten, its president of worldwide R&D, AstraZeneca's French CEO Pascal Soriot and minister David Willetts will face tough questions when they appear before the UK Parliament's science and technology committee tomorrow.

Mr Dolsten, a scientist, said one of the key drivers of the proposal was to increase its exposure to the UK's world-class science base.

"We think that a combination between Pfizer and AstraZeneca would result in an organisation that is even stronger, more efficient and more innovative than either company would be on its own," he said in an article issued on the Irish and British stock exchanges.

"The combined company would be a scientific powerhouse, with increased capabilities to deliver great benefit to patients and science right across the globe."

The comments are Pfizer's latest counter to critics of its proposed $106bn deal, which would be the largest foreign takeover of a British firm and is opposed by many scientists and politicians – as well as AstraZeneca itself.

It is facing political pressure in the US amid accusations it will move its legal address to the UK for a lower tax rate while keeping its head office in New York.

Pfizer – which employs about 3,200 people in Ireland – said part of the takeover would be a commitment to complete AstraZeneca's new research centre in Cambridge.

It already has more than 800 scientists, doctors and researchers in research centres at Cambridge and Sandwich.

Mr Dolsten maintained the takeover was about fostering great science.

"Continuing to deliver medical advances that significantly improve patients' lives is absolutely at the heart of our desire to combine with AstraZeneca," he said.

But the firm took a swipe at AstraZeneca's go-it-alone strategy by arguing that Britain's second biggest pharmaceuticals business lacked the financial muscle to make the most of its experimental medicines.

"Looming patent expiries and near-term revenue losses jeopardise its ability to deliver on its very promising pipeline," Pfizer said in a written submission to a parliamentary committee.

"By combining our resources, we would bolster each organisation's ability to bring new innovative medicines to patients in need."

Under British takeover rules, Pfizer has until May 26 to make a firm bid for AstraZeneca or walk away. (additional reporting by Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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