Finance Minister Anders Borg, Enterprise
Minister Annie Loof and Education Minister Jan Bjorklund said
AstraZeneca's shareholders should "seriously consider rejecting"
Pfizer's plan, unless there was clarity on its impact.
AstraZeneca, which was formed from an Anglo-Swedish merger 15
years ago, has rebuffed Pfizer's current offer but the U.S.
group is widely expected to return with a sweetened bid.
AstraZeneca's chief executive has not ruled out discussions at
the right price.
Pfizer has given a five-year promise to have 20 percent of its
research staff in Britain, where AstraZeneca has its
headquarters, but it has not spelt out what this means in
At the same time, the U.S. company has said that the overall
research budget of a merged group would be lower than the sum of
the two companies' individual research budgets.
The numbers suggest Sweden is right to be worried.
Pfizer currently has around 11,000 staff working in research
worldwide, while AstraZeneca has 9,000, and the two companies
together employ 3,450 in Britain - 2,600 at AstraZeneca and 850
at Pfizer - representing 17.25 percent of the combined total.
But AstraZeneca plans to shed 400 research posts by 2016 as it
moves to a new site in Cambridge, suggesting that research
centers in Sweden and the United States will have to take a
larger share of future job cuts if Pfizer is to hit its 20
In Sweden, AstraZeneca employs 5,900 people, of whom 2,200 work
in research and development (R&D), representing 25 percent of
the independent company's R&D total.
Sweden has in the past been reluctant to agree to European Union
rules that would require public interest tests for business
deals but Borg said Pfizer's "semi-hostile bid" might force a
"Essentially, we want to retain an open regime, but at the same
time, if you behave in the way that Pfizer is doing, then you
undermine the legitimacy of that open regime," he told
Borg, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and opposition leader
Stefan Lofven have previously expressed fears the $106 billion
approach would lead to job losses in Sweden.
Borg, Loof and Bjorklund said in a signed opinion piece in the
Wall Street Journal that the guarantees offered by Pfizer over
retaining research and jobs in Europe were not sufficient.
"If there is no further clarity regarding the effects of
Pfizer's possible semi-hostile takeover of AstraZeneca, our
conclusion ... is that AstraZeneca's owners should seriously
consider rejecting Pfizer's proposal," the ministers said.
"Pfizer's potential takeover could be interpreted as a sign of
short-term capitalism, which we believe is not in the interest
of important life-science research in Sweden, in the UK or
(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler and Niklas Pollard;
editing by David Stamp)
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