Pfizer Chief Questioned Over AstraZeneca Jobs
Pfizer’s chief executive is to be questioned by MPs later about the US drugs company’s commitments to UK jobs as part of its £63bn takeover plan for AstraZeneca.
Ian Read has questioned the British drugmaker’s ability to stand alone for much longer and said the planned merger would create a “UK-based scientific powerhouse”.
He said Pfizer’s agreement to complete AstraZeneca’s new research centre in Cambridge and put a fifth of its research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead were legally binding.
In a written statement ahead of his appearance before the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Pfizer took a swipe at AstraZeneca’s go-it-alone strategy by arguing it lacked the financial muscle to make the most of its experimental medicines.
“Looming patent expiries and near-term revenue losses jeopardise its ability to deliver on its very promising pipeline,” it said.
If the deal goes ahead, it would be the largest foreign takeover of a British firm.
Critics claim the Viagra maker’s pledges are worthless, and are calling on the Government to stop any deal.
AstraZeneca has rejected the offer as “inadequate”.
The offer is reviving bitter memories of when American food giant Kraft abandoned jobs pledges after buying Cadbury in 2010.
The GMB and Unite unions are calling on Business Secretary Vince Cable to block the proposed takeover.
“Assurances given by Pfizer … are worthless. If this takeover is allowed it will be a serious blow to the UK’s science economy,” said GMB national officer Allan Black.
MPs will also question Mr Cable and AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot.
A second parliamentary committee on Wednesday will question both CEOs again, along with Science Minister David Willetts.
Meanwhile, Sky’s City Editor Mark Kleinman has learnt Neil Woodford, the City’s most prominent fund manager, will meet Mr Read this week for talks about the proposed takeover.
Mr Woodford may prove to be a key figure in Pfizer’s battle to win control of AstraZeneca despite managing only a small stake in the British-based drug-maker.