Swedish ministers urge Astra owners to consider Pfizer rebuff

STOCKHOLM Fri May 16, 2014 3:29am EDT

STOCKHOLM May 16 (Reuters) - Owners of drugmaker AstraZeneca, which has half its roots in Sweden, should seriously consider rejecting U.S. rival Pfizer's proposed takeover unless the consequences are mapped out more clearly, three Swedish government ministers said.

Finance Minister Anders Borg, Enterprise Minister Annie Loof and Education Minister Jan Bjorklund said in a signed opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that Sweden had been reluctant to agree to EU rules that would require public interest tests for business deals.

"However, the arguments against such regulation get weaker when we consider past experiences of non-cooperative transactions, such as the one Pfizer is currently trying to accomplish, and the implications they hold for medical research," the ministers said.

Borg, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and opposition leader Stefan Lofven have previously expressed fears the $106 billion approach bid would lead to job losses in Sweden.

AstraZeneca, which employs some 5,900 people in Sweden, has rejected Pfizer's current offer but the U.S. group is widely expected to come back with a sweetened bid.

Borg, Loof and Bjorklund said in their article on Friday that the guarantees offered by Pfizer over retaining research and jobs in Europe were not sufficient.

"If there is no further clarity regarding the effects of Pfizer's possible semi-hostile takeover of AstraZeneca, our conclusion ... is that AstraZeneca's owners should seriously consider rejecting Pfizer's proposal," the ministers said. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard; editing by Ben Hirschler)

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