Shareholders disappointed by AstraZeneca rejection of Pfizer

LONDON Mon May 19, 2014 5:05am EDT

LONDON May 19 (Reuters) - British pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca faces a clash with its shareholders amid mounting disappointment at its rejection on Monday of a sweetened takeover offer by Pfizer.

"We are extremely disappointed with the turn of events at Astra today," said one - a fund manager at a top 10 investor in AstraZeneca after the company rebuffed a raised takeover offer of 55 pounds a share, worth around 70 billion pounds ($118 billion).

"We do not think the Astra management have done a good job on behalf of shareholders. We had already urged Astra to engage in discussions with Pfizer," added the fund manager on condition of anonymity, as his firm had not authorised him to speak publicly.

Pfizer had sought to create the world's largest drugs company but met entrenched opposition from AstraZeneca, while many British politicians and scientists had expressed worries about cuts to jobs and research in Britain.

Shares in AstraZeneca were trading more than 10 percent lower after it rejected Pfizer's "final" offer.

A second AstraZeneca shareholder within the 40 largest investors in the company said surprise at the rejected offer was widespread among his peers.

"I thought at 55 they'd say 'lets open the books and chat' so I think large numbers of shareholders out there will be disappointed," the second shareholder said.

AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson said he had made clear in discussions with Pfizer that his board could only recommend a bid that was at least 10 percent above an offer of 53.50 pounds made by Pfizer on Friday, or 58.85 pounds.

Earlier Aberdeen Asset Management, a leading investor in AstraZenea, said the U.S. group had room to offer more than 55 pounds per share.

Chief Investment Officer Anne Richards told BBC radio: "I think it's a good price that's on the table at the moment but probably they could do better than that."

($1 = 0.5942 British Pounds) (Reporting by Chris Vellacott; Editing by Peter Graff)

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