Pfizer Pushes Merger Ahead Of Chief’s U.K. Appearance

Pfizer Pushes Merger Ahead Of Chief’s U.K. Appearance
By Pfizer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) continues to try to convince AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) and officials in the U.S. and U.K. that a merger a good idea. In a video posted on Pfizer’s website, research chief Mikael Dolsten essentially says that the longer the debate stretches on, the more of a disruption it will be for scientists at both companies. He also said that if the two companies combined, the result would be “a financial engine that could support robust, yet thoughtful R&D research.”

Hearings scheduled with Pfizer, AstraZeneca heads

Reuters reports that Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) CEO Ian Read is scheduled to appear before one parliamentary committee tomorrow regarding his company’s push to buy AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN). He’s scheduled to appear before a second on Wednesday. The committees will also question AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and business minister Vince Cable this week and Pfizer science minister David Willetts.

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Pfizer has said the deal is largely aimed at reducing its tax bill. The drug maker plans to keep its headquarters in the U.S. but move its mailing address to the U.K. to take advantage of the lower corporate tax rate there.

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have been concerned about job loss in connection with the proposed merger. Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) has a history of closing offices and slashing jobs after acquiring other companies.

Implications of the merger

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) has pledged to finish AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN)’s Cambridge research facility in five years, keep a factory in Macclesfield, a small U.K. town, and keep a fifth of its researchers in the U.K. if the merger goes through. However, the company also indicated that it could make changes if there are significant changes to circumstances. As a result, lawmakers are pushing for promises which are more binding.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly said over the weekend that he had made “very good progress” in pushing Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) for stronger promises. Today The Guardian reports that Pfizer has said that its pledges on investing in the U.K. were legally binding and that a merger with AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN) will both create and protect high-value jobs. Pfizer made the comments in a written statement to the business, innovations and skills select committee.

Some lawmakers continue to question whether Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) will really keep its promises, however. The company bought Pharmacia, a Swedish company, in 2002. Last week, Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg said Pfizer didn’t keep its promises in that case.

Pfizer could sweeten the deal

AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN) continues to try to fend off Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE)’s unwanted advances. This week it is expected that Pfizer will increase its offer for AstraZeneca. Reuters reports that its sources have said the drug maker will wait until after the hearings with the parliamentary select committee are complete.

AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN) rejected Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE)’s offer for £50 pounds a share. Analysts believe the company must raise it to £55 pounds a share and also increase the proption of cash to stock from the 32% which Pfizer is currently offering. The problem is that Pfizer must limit how much cash it offers in order to retain the tax benefits from moving its mailing address to the U.K. At least 20% of the merged company must be owned by shareholders in the U.K.

Meanwhile AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) (LON:AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot has been speaking with shareholders, securing support from many of the drug maker’s high profile ones. However, others have reportedly told Reuters they want to see discussions with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE).

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