AstraZeneca CEO sees reputational risk from Pfizer tax plan

LONDON Tue May 13, 2014 6:46am EDT

LONDON May 13 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said Pfizer's plan to cut its tax bill by re-domiciling to Britain if it buys the smaller British drugmaker posed a reputational risk.

"The proposed tax inversion structure, we are afraid, could generate substantial controversy and potentially delay this merger and potentially impact the reputation of our company," he told a committee of British lawmakers on Tuesday.

The U.S. drugmaker has stirred up a political storm with its $106 billion plan to acquire AstraZeneca, which has been rebuffed by the smaller British company. AstraZeneca argues it undervalues its drug pipeline and exposes its shareholders to significant risks.

The deal would be the largest foreign takeover of a British firm and is opposed by many scientists, trade unions and politicians who fear for British science jobs given Pfizer's track record of cost cutting after past acquisitions.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Kate Holton)

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