Business World

Sunday 22 April 2018

Shareholders divided as AstraZeneca turns down final £69bn offer

Leif Johansson. REUTERS/Bob Strong
Leif Johansson. REUTERS/Bob Strong

AstraZeneca has divided shareholders by rejecting Pfizer's final £55-per-share offer, saying it "falls short" of the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's value as an independent company.

The decision sent shares in the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker down sharply yesterday.

Late on Sunday, Pfizer returned to AstraZeneca for the fourth and final time with a sweetened offer.

The American drug giant proposed a £69.4bn (€82bn) cash-and-shares bid, that valued each AstraZeneca share at around £55 (€65). It said the proposal was "final" and that it would not make a hostile bid should this attempt fail to win over the board.

Some major Pfizer shareholders expressed annoyance at the board's stance.

Pfizer wants to create the world's largest drugs firm, with a headquarters in New York but a tax base in Britain, where corporate tax rates are lower than in the United States. The plan has met entrenched opposition from AstraZeneca, as well as politicians and scientists who fear cuts to jobs and research.

"It died of multiple wounds. Too little cash, too many suspicions about Pfizer's motives, and too little confidence in its assurances about jobs," said Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

AstraZeneca chairman Leif Johansson said he had made clear in discussions with Pfizer that his board could only recommend a bid that was at least 10pc above an offer of £53.50 made by Pfizer on Friday.

In addition to the inadequate price, Mr Johansson also slammed the lack of industrial logic behind Pfizer's move; the risks posed to shareholders by the controversial tax plans; and the threat to life-science jobs in Britain, Sweden and the United States.

"Pfizer's approach throughout its pursuit of AstraZeneca appears to have been fundamentally driven by the corporate financial benefits to its shareholders of cost savings and tax minimisation," Johansson said.

"From our first meeting in January to our latest discussion yesterday, and in the numerous phone calls in between, Pfizer has failed to make a compelling strategic, business or value case."

Mr Johansson's refusal to engage in discussions angered some shareholders, with one fund manager at a top-10 investor in the group telling Reuters: "We do not think the Astra management have done a good job on behalf of our shareholders."

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business