AstraZeneca shareholder urges board to restart Pfizer talks

Tue May 20, 2014 9:08am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L: Quote) shareholder Schroders (SDR.L: Quote) urged the company to restart takeover talks with Pfizer (PFE.N: Quote), adding its voice to criticism of the British drugmaker's rejection of the U.S. firm's 70 billion pound ($118 billion) bid.

The British fund manager said on Tuesday it was disappointed with "the quick rejection by the AstraZeneca board" and the decision by Pfizer to "draw a premature end to these negotiations by calling their latest proposal final".

Schroders is AstraZeneca's twelfth-largest shareholder with a 2 percent stake.

Its comments echoed those of other shareholders, including Jupiter JUP.L, who were dismayed at AstraZeneca's rejection of Pfizer's 55 pounds a share offer on Monday. The deal would have created the world's biggest pharmaceuticals group.

However, other investors said AstraZeneca had been right to hold out for a better price.

Anne Richards, chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management which holds 2.4 percent of the company, said Pfizer's offer "certainly wasn't a knock-out".

Veteran fund manager Neil Woodford, who controls AstraZeneca shares in funds he runs for wealth manager St James's Place (SJP.L: Quote) said he was "relieved that AstraZeneca appears to have retained its independence".

"I applaud the board's resolute resistance of the Pfizer approach, based on their long-term value judgment that I fully support," Woodford said in a statement.

"I remain convinced that an independent AstraZeneca will achieve far better returns for its shareholders than the combination of cash and Pfizer paper would have delivered. The long-term future for AstraZeneca looks very bright indeed".

(Reporting by Chris Vellacott. Editing by Erica Billingham)

A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble