Swedish government questions Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca

Swedish government questions Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca
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Swedish government ministers have been speaking out against US drugmaker Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca.

The company was formed from an Anglo-Swedish merger 15 years ago and has nearly 6,000 staff in Sweden.

The country’s finance, enterprise and education ministers have said AstraZeneca’s shareholders should “seriously consider rejecting” Pfizer’s plan, unless the Americans make clear what the impact of a takeover would be.

They think the guarantees offered by Pfizer on retaining research and jobs in Europe are not sufficient.

AstraZeneca’s management has spurned Pfizer’s current bid, but it is widely expected the US group will offer more money and AstraZeneca has not ruled out discussions at the right price.

Pfizer has given a five-year promise to have 20 percent of its research staff in Britain, where AstraZeneca has its headquarters, but it has not spelt out what this means in absolute numbers.

At the same time, the US company has said that the overall research budget of a merged group would be lower than the sum of the two companies’ individual research budgets.

The numbers suggest Sweden is right to be worried.

Pfizer currently has around 11,000 staff working in research worldwide, while AstraZeneca has 9,000, and the two companies together employ 3,450 in Britain – 2,600 at AstraZeneca and 850 at Pfizer – representing 17.25 percent of the combined total.

But AstraZeneca plans to shed 400 research posts by 2016 as it moves to a new site in Cambridge, suggesting that research centres in Sweden and the United States will have to take a larger share of future job cuts if Pfizer is to hit its 20 percent target.

with Reuters

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