Pfizer U.S. research jobs jeopardized by promises to UK for merger

Sat May 3, 2014 8:09am EDT
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By Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Employees at Pfizer Inc's U.S. research centers, such as the La Jolla, California site that specializes in cancer drugs, may want to dust off their resumes if the company's proposed acquisition of Britain's AstraZeneca comes to fruition.

Pfizer said on Friday it was determined to reach a deal that would restore its status as the world's biggest pharmaceutical company despite AstraZeneca's rejection of its latest cash and stock offer of 63 billion pounds ($106 billion).

To reassure the British government about its proposal, Pfizer has promised the combined company would keep 20 percent of its research and development workforce in the country. It also vowed to complete construction of a research center planned by AstraZeneca in Cambridge, England, and retain a manufacturing plant in the northern town of Macclesfield.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if they are making these concessions to the British government, there will be cuts on this side of the Atlantic," said Raghuram Selvaraju, healthcare equity research analyst with Aegis Capital.

Cost savings through large numbers of job cuts, typically described by companies as "synergies," are a key component of any big merger deal. A Pfizer deal for AstraZeneca would be no different.

Since the deal would give Pfizer control of AstraZeneca's extensive and promising portfolio of oncology drugs in development, Pfizer's own cancer and vaccine research center on the Pacific coast near San Diego could face the chopping block.

"If I was a Pfizer R&D employee in the U.S. and this merger goes through, I would be very fearful of my job, especially if I was based in La Jolla," Selvaraju said.

"Pfizer has a history of shutting down facilities; they don't thin down head count; they shut down an entire facility and pick up their stakes and move away."   Continued...

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