Pfizer confirms interest in AstraZeneca

Alexander Newton

US drugs giant Pfizer has confirmed it has contacted AstraZeneca over a possible multi-billion pound takeover.

Pfizer said it made an initial approach in January, but after “limited high-level discussions” AstraZeneca discontinued the talks. However, it said recent market developments had prompted it to approach AstraZeneca for a second time.

“AstraZeneca again declined to engage. Pfizer is currently considering its options,” Pfizer said in a statement.

If the deal went through, it would mark the largest takeover of a UK firm by a foreign company.

Pfizer said its initial offer in January was a combination of cash and shares worth £46.61 per AstraZeneca share. At the time, it represented a 30% premium to AstraZeneca’s share price. However, AstraZeneca’s share price has since increased, rising to as high as £47.00 this morning.

Pfizer said the deal was “a highly compelling opportunity” for AstraZeneca’s shareholders.

It said if the takeover went through, the combined firm would have management in both the US and the UK, but would list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

“We have great respect for AstraZeneca and its proud heritage,” said Pfizer chairman and chief executive Ian Read. Pfizer said it would only make a firm offer if AstraZeneca directors voted unanimously in favour of the deal. “The strategic, business and financial rationale for a transaction is compelling,” it added.