In the latest phase of Pfizer's campaign to counter critics of its
proposed $106 billion deal, research head Mikael Dolsten said he had
been through five different mergers and acquisitions and denied such
big transactions disrupted drug research.
"If you keep your sense of curiosity and an open mind, you can learn
tremendously," he said in a video posted on the company's website.
"We must stay laser-focused on our important projects. And that's,
of course, true for Pfizer scientists and AZ scientists and will be
true also if we can make a potential combination come together."
British lawmakers are due to quiz Dolsten's boss, Scottish-born
Chief Executive Ian Read, on May 13 about his plans to acquire
Britain's second-biggest pharmaceuticals business - a deal driven in
large part by Pfizer's wish to cut its tax bill.
They will also interrogate AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and
business minister Vince Cable.
A second parliamentary committee on May 14 will question both CEOs
again about the science aspects of the deal, along with Pfizer's
Dolsten and science minister David Willetts.
Buying AstraZeneca would be the largest foreign takeover of a
British firm. Pfizer's approach has been rejected by AstraZeneca and
the idea of a merger is opposed by many scientists and some
politicians who fear it would damage the country's science base.
Dolsten said there was "a really great fit" with the products that
AstraZeneca had in its portfolio, with potential for combining drugs
in areas such as lung cancer to offer much more effective
Pfizer has given a five-year commitment to complete AstraZeneca's
new research center in Cambridge, retain a factory in the
northwestern English town of Macclesfield and put a fifth of its
research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead.
But the U.S. firm has also said it could adjust those promises if
circumstances change "significantly", prompting demands for more
Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday he had made "very good
progress" in securing guarantees from Pfizer. However, Dolsten's
remarks contained no new pledges on preserving British science jobs.
Pfizer is widely expected to come back with a sweetened offer for
AstraZeneca this week, though people familiar with the matter said
it was likely to wait until after the parliamentary select committee
The British group rejected a May 2 cash-and-stock offer worth 50
pounds a share from its larger American rival, and CEO Soriot has
been on a roadshow to meet leading investors and lay out his
strategy for a prosperous independent future.
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Soriot has secured the backing of several high-profile shareholders,
but others have told Reuters they would like him to engage with
Pfizer if the U.S. group makes an improved offer.
In addition to wanting a higher price - many analysts think Pfizer
will have to offer around 55 pounds a share - investors are also
keen to increase the proportion of cash in any deal from 32 percent
Pfizer is limited in the amount of cash it can offer since in
order to keep the tax advantages of re-domiciling to Britain it must
ensure at least 20 percent of the enlarged group is British-owned.
Under British takeover rules, Pfizer has until May 26 to make a firm
bid for AstraZeneca or walk away.
A slide in Pfizer's share price following its first-quarter results
last week has reduced the current value of its May 2 offer to just
under 48 pounds. AstraZeneca shares traded barely changed at 46
pounds early on Monday.
Political concerns about the proposed takeover have been fuelled by
Pfizer's record of making big job cuts after past acquisitions. It
also has a tarnished reputation in Britain after shutting down most
of its drug research in Sandwich, southern England, where Viagra was
invented, with the loss of some 1,700 jobs.
Pfizer's Read also laid out the case for a merger in videos posted
by the U.S. group on Saturday, when he said strong British research
was a key reason for the deal.
(Editing by Jason Neely)
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