Pfizer says AstraZeneca takeover would benefit science

LONDON Wed May 7, 2014 3:54am EDT

LONDON May 7 (Reuters) - Pfizer sought to allay fears that its proposed $106 billion takeover of AstraZeneca would deal a blow to drug research, saying the new company would bolster innovative science and speed the development of new treatments.

The deal would be the largest foreign takeover of a British company and has raised fears that resulting cost cutting would see the loss of thousands of skilled jobs, undermining the UK's science base.

AstraZeneca, Britain's second-largest drugs company, has rejected successive approaches from its larger American rival.

As political opposition to the plan grew, Pfizer reiterated its commitment to the deal, posting a graphic on its website that touted the benefits of a merger.

It said the combined group would be able to expand its global research, speed up the development of treatments and broaden its footprint in emerging markets.

A combined Pfizer-AstraZeneca would be the world's largest pharmaceuticals business and save Pfizer billions of dollars in taxes by shifting its domicile to Britain, although it would still be run out of New York.

In a mounting war of words, Pfizer quoted the former chairman and CEO of AstraZeneca rival GlaxoSmithKline, Richard Sykes, saying the deal was a "fantastic opportunity" and "Pfizer are serious and they've got a lot of money to spend".

But British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing growing pressure from lawmakers to secure promises about jobs, research and intellectual property. On Tuesday, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government could use its public interest powers to intervene in the deal.

On Tuesday, AstraZeneca laid out its defence strategy, touting its strong long-term growth potential as an independent company. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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