AstraZeneca fights Pfizer bid by predicting sales surge - eventually

Tue May 6, 2014 12:05pm EDT
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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc laid out its defense against Pfizer Inc's $106-billion takeover approach on Tuesday by predicting its sales would rise by three quarters over the next decade, although only after a short-term drop.

With promising new medicines expected to lift annual revenue above $45 billion by 2023, up from $25.7 billion in 2013, selling out to the U.S. group now would deprive investors of huge gains, it argued.

"The increasingly visible success of our independent strategy highlights the future prospects for our shareholders," said Chairman Leif Johansson. "These are benefits that should fully accrue to AstraZeneca's shareholders."

Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said plunging AstraZeneca into a disruptive merger would also jeopardize its ability to deliver on the new drug pipeline, which is expected to account for 30 percent of the 2023 sales total.

Investors and analysts agree Britain's second-biggest drugmaker has an improving experimental portfolio in areas ranging from cancer to asthma, but they remain nervous about the uncertain commercial future of many products.

AstraZeneca has rebuffed three approaches from Pfizer, which wants to create the world's biggest pharmaceuticals company - and cut its tax bill - by buying the group. It said on Friday that the U.S. firm's latest offer of 50 pounds a share "substantially" undervalued the company.

The group has not ruled out a deal altogether, however, and people familiar with the matter said it was willing to talk if there were a compelling offer. Several large shareholders have told Reuters they would be open to a deal at a higher level.

Shares in AstraZeneca were down 2.7 percent at 46.80 pounds at 11:10 am ET (1510 GMT).   Continued...

A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples