May 20, 2014 / 9:59 AM / in 5 years

AstraZeneca shareholder urges board to restart Pfizer talks

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

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shareholder Schroders (SDR.L) urged the company to restart takeover talks with Pfizer (PFE.N), 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) 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

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