EU likely to block any UK intervention in AstraZeneca bid -lawyers

Thu May 8, 2014 10:33am EDT
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* Pressure grows on Cameron to protect British jobs

* British leader now wants commitments from Pfizer

* Any deal could undergo "public interest test"-minister

* Drugs companies must work with state health service

By Kate Holton

LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - The European Commission would probably block any attempt by the British government to intervene in Pfizer's proposed takeover of AstraZeneca as Brussels itself would rule on a deal of that size, competition lawyers say.

AstraZeneca has rejected the $106 billion bid to create the world's largest pharmaceuticals business. However, Pfizer is still pursuing its British rival, and political pressure is growing on Prime Minister David Cameron to show he can protect jobs should the New York-based company prevail.

Cameron initially signalled he would not interfere in the bid. However, the Conservative leader - who faces a parliamentary election this time next year - now says he wants further commitments from Pfizer before giving his blessing to any takeover of Britain's second largest drugs group.

He has also not ruled out a suggestion from his Business Secretary Vince Cable that a takeover could be subjected to a "public interest test" - one of the few occasions when ministers can intervene in a country which prides itself on being open to foreign investment.   Continued...