Financial News

  • 7 May 2014, 10:00

Jobs Government's 'Sole Interest' In Pfizer Move

George Osborne has insisted securing British jobs are the Government's "sole interest" as a political row simmers over US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's takeover bid for AstraZeneca.

The Chancellor said he would back "any arrangement that delivers" for Britain and accused Labour of hypocrisy in suggesting politicians should block the move.

It follows news that MPs are to question senior executives from Pfizer over its £50-per-share or £63bn offer for the UK-based firm.

The Science & Technology Committee joined the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in announcing evidence sessions as speculation intensified that Pfizer may launch a hostile offer after its second approach to the AstraZeneca board was dismissed.

The £63bn offer - described by AstraZeneca†as significantly undervaluing the business - was rebuffed on Friday within hours of the details being made public.

Pfizer's boss later courted further controversy by refusing to rule out breaking AstraZeneca up if its efforts to assume control were ultimately successful.

The prospect of a hostile bid - which would effectively mean Pfizer going directly to AstraZeneca†shareholders with an offer - was challenged by Astra's bosses in a pitch to investors on Tuesday.

The presentation urged them to focus on the company's long-term drug prospects - arguing they offered significantly higher returns.

As Sky News learned on Monday, the firm said it was targeting stronger annual revenues of $45bn†(£26.5bn) by 2023, with a focus on five key growth platforms.

Any hostile bid would also likely stoke the growing political row over the implications of a deal.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said he will not rule out intervening, but insisted the Government is taking an neutral approach.

The Liberal Democrat told MPs he is "open-minded" about applying a public interest test and is "very alive to the national interest considerations" but the bid is "ultimately a matter for shareholders".

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who accused David Cameron of acting as a "cheerleader" for the tie-up in comments to Sky News, wants any analysis the Government has made of the proposal to be made public and form part of an independent investigation.

The Government can currently intervene on mergers or takeovers where there is a national security issue, an issue of media plurality, competition concerns or if it could affect financial stability.

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