AstraZeneca rejects Pfizer's take-it-or-leave-it offer

Mon May 19, 2014 4:23pm EDT
 
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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's AstraZeneca on Monday rejected a sweetened and "final" offer from Pfizer, puncturing the U.S. drugmaker's plan for a merger to create the world's biggest pharmaceuticals group.

The rebuff came nine hours after Pfizer said on Sunday night it had raised its takeover offer to 55 pounds a share, or around 70 billion pounds ($118 billion) in total, and would walk away if AstraZeneca did not accept it.

The rejection left some major shareholders fuming as shares in AstraZeneca slumped 11 percent to close at 42.88 pounds after falling as much as 15 percent - their biggest ever intra-day decline. Pfizer rose 1 percent in New York.

AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson told Reuters he now saw no prospect of a deal with Pfizer before a deadline of May 26 set under British takeover rules, or any likelihood of that deadline being extended.

Experts also said Pfizer had left itself no room to return with a last-minute higher offer due to the strict takeover code.

Pfizer wants to create the world's largest drugs firm, with a headquarters in New York but a tax base in Britain, where corporate tax rates are lower than in the United States. The plan has met entrenched opposition from AstraZeneca, as well as politicians and scientists who fear cuts to jobs and research.

"It died of multiple wounds. Too little cash, too many suspicions about Pfizer's motives, and too little confidence in its assurances about jobs," said Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "Pfizer's chances are going down, despite its offer of a higher price."

Johansson said he had made clear in discussions with Pfizer that his board could only recommend a bid that was more than 10 percent above an offer of 53.50 pounds made by Pfizer on Friday, which would amount to at least 58.85 pounds. He blamed Pfizer for calling a halt to discussions after a telephone call lasting more than an hour with Pfizer's chairman and CEO Ian Read on Sunday afternoon.   Continued...

 
The Pfizer logo is seen at their world headquarters in New York April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly