Former AstraZeneca boss says Pfizer would “suck the lifeblood” from the group

6th May 2014

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The former boss of UK pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca has come out and attacked the advances of US drugs firm Pfizer.

Speaking to the BBC Sir David Barnes who was chief executive of AstraZeneca until 2000 and latterly deputy chairman until 2002 said that he feared Pfizer would act like a “praying mantis” and “suck the lifeblood” out of the FTSE 100 group.

On Friday, Pfizer’s latest salvo to strike a deal with the British corporation was again knocked back, even though it had upped its offer to £50 per share, valuing the revamped transaction at an eye-watering £63bn.

A statement issued by Pfizer, famous for making Viagra, said: “The proposal would provide an opportunity for AstraZeneca shareholders to achieve significant value immediately upon closing of the transaction and at the same time participate in the short, medium and long-term value creation expected from the combination.”

Read more: Star manager Neil Woodford backs “independent” AstraZeneca

But AstraZeneca stood its ground, and described Pfizer’s proposal as inadequate and one that substantially undervalued the business.

AstraZeneca chairman, Leif Johansson said in a statement: “We are showing strong momentum as an independent company, in particular with our exciting, rapidly progressing pipeline, which the Board believes will deliver significant value for shareholders. Pfizer’s proposal would dramatically dilute AstraZeneca shareholders’ exposure to our unique pipeline and would create risks around its delivery. As such, the board has no hesitation in rejecting the Proposal.”

According to reports the Business Select and Science and Technology committees have said they wish to speak to the bosses of both firms at a hearing.

Sir David told the BBC that “tax was one of the key drivers” behind the Pfizer offer, rather than a long-term commitment to research and development. He described such a motive as a “very narrow basis on which to base such a massive task”.

He told the BBC: “The risk is that the past history of Pfizer has shown that they tend to extract destructive synergies, they have done that in the past.

“I have a great concern that they will act like a praying mantis and suck the lifeblood out of their prey.”

Star fund manager and AstraZeneca investor Neil Woodford has now waded into the debate and says he believes AstraZeneca is right to reject Pfizer’s offer as it has a “viable and attractive independent future”.

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