After showing his hand and pressuring his smaller competitor on
Monday by disclosing two bid approaches, both of which were
rebuffed, Pfizer CEO Ian Read has until May 26 to "put up or shut
up" under UK takeover rules.
Importantly, after a jump in Pfizer shares, Read knows he has the
backing of many of his own shareholders, while the threat of a
counterbid does not appear imminent.
Read and his team will be using the time available to consider how
they can sweeten an offer made in January worth 58.8 billion pounds
($98.8 billion), or 46.61 pounds a share, comprising 30 percent cash
and 70 percent shares.
AstraZeneca said that offer fell "very significantly" short and it
specifically flagged the small cash component, which would leave
investors exposed to the risks faced by Pfizer in executing an
So far, the British group has refused to talk to Pfizer — but it has
not ruled out discussions altogether and one person close to the
company said the cash component of any fresh offer would be key in
determining if there was engagement in future.
Cash is uppermost in the minds of AstraZeneca shareholders, too.
"For it to move forward from here, they (Pfizer) need to find a way
of getting Astra management engaged and that feels like it needs a
specific value being applied to the group, and it needs the cash
element to be higher," said Alastair Gunn of Jupiter Fund Management
<JUP.L>, which is a top-20 investor in AstraZeneca.
Analysts at Jefferies believe a deal could get done with Pfizer
offering a 50/50 split between cash and shares at a price of at
least 50 pounds a share.
Several investors contacted by Reuters confirmed they were looking
for 50 pounds a share or more, with Neil Veitch of SVM Asset
Management predicting an agreed deal somewhere between 52 and 53
Because a key goal of the planned takeover is to get the tax
advantages of re-domiciling the enlarged group in Britain, there is
a limit to how much cash Pfizer can offer, since at least 20 percent
of its shareholders are required to be UK-based.
"We estimate Pfizer will need to issue a minimum of around $55
billion in shares to comfortably meet this requirement," Jefferies
Based on the original 30 percent cash element, Moody's analyst
Michael Levesque said Pfizer could fund the whole of the cash
portion with offshore funds.
Pushing the cash element to 50 percent, however, would require
taking on some incremental debt.
[to top of second column]
SORIOT CANVASSES INVESTORS
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, whose efforts to revive the firm's
drug pipeline have proved a key draw for Pfizer, will now be
canvassing the views of shareholders as a "priority", with machinery
in place for meetings with big and small investors, two people close
to the company said.
Soriot and chairman Leif Johansson will also be weighing strategic
alternatives for the drugmaker, including the potential spin-off of
non-core therapy areas like infection and neuroscience, as well as
But "white knight" counterbidders ready to take on Pfizer are likely
to be thin on the ground — not least because few other companies
would enjoy the same cost and tax benefits from acquiring
AstraZeneca as Pfizer.
Amgen <AMGN.O> is one player for whom an AstraZeneca deal might make
sense, since the two companies are co-developing a number of drugs,
but a person familiar with the U.S. biotech firm said on Tuesday it
was not interested in entering the fray.
French drugmaker Sanofi <SASY.PA> is another company with the heft
and M&A experience to consider intervening, yet its CEO Chris
Viehbacher said on Tuesday he planned to stick to smaller bolt-on
GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L>, the British company with arguably the
greatest potential to extract synergies from buying AstraZeneca, has
meanwhile said for several years it is not interested in large
($1 = 0.5950 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Anjuli Davies;
editing by Mark Potter)
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