BlackRock wants new Astra-Pfizer talks at later date-sources

LONDON Thu May 22, 2014 6:30pm EDT

LONDON May 22 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, AstraZeneca Plc's largest shareholder, wants the drugmaker to resume talks with Pfizer Inc about a potential sale eventually, but backs its decision this week to reject Pfizer's current bid, according to two people familiar with the matter.

London-based AstraZeneca on Monday turned down New York-based Pfizer's "final" cash-and-stock bid worth about $118 billion. Under UK takeover rules, Pfizer's offer expires on May 26.

After that, Pfizer would have to wait six months before making another bid. However, it would be possible for AstraZeneca to initiate talks from late August, if it decides it wants to coax a higher offer.

BlackRock's view, first reported by Sky News, follows efforts by Pfizer advisers to urge investors to speak up against AstraZeneca's decision to reject its proposal.

Several leading shareholders have spoken out, but sentiments have been mixed. Prior to BlackRock's views becoming known, investors representing around 10 percent of AstraZeneca's share base have said they disagreed with the board's decision, with a similar number broadly lending support.

BlackRock owns 8 percent of AstraZeneca and also holds 6.8 percent of Pfizer, according to Thomson Reuters data.

BlackRock declined to comment. (Reporting by Simon Jessop and Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Gregorio)

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