LONDON May 1 Pfizer's plan to buy
AstraZeneca for around $100 billion could face antitrust
hurdles in China, where the two companies rank No. 1 and No. 2
among multinational suppliers in the prescription drug market.
The need for merger clearance from Beijing would come on top
of antitrust approval in the United States and Europe and could
potentially delay proceedings, according to people familiar with
Julian Huppert, member of parliament for Cambridge, where
AstraZeneca intends to build a new research centre and
headquarters, said China was likely to look hard at the deal,
especially after a bribery scandal last year involving drugmaker
"I know China is concerned. From China's perspective, these
are their two major suppliers potentially merging into one, and
given their history with GSK, there is some obvious nervousness
there," Huppert told Reuters.
China's six-year-old anti-monopoly law is playing an
increasing role in international deals, forcing often painful
delays. Some see its antitrust regime as an industrial policy
China's fast-growing market is a lure for global firms. Drug
sales in the country, which totalled $82 billion in 2012, are
expected to reach $160-190 billion by 2017, making it the
second-biggest market behind the United States, according to IMS
Pfizer has yet to make a firm offer for AstraZeneca after
having two approaches rebuffed, and a company spokesman said it
was "premature to speculate on any specific impacts in specific
Glencore Xstrata is a recent example of a company
that ran into problems with China's Commerce Ministry (MOFCOM).
Glencore agreed to sell a Peruvian copper mine to secure
approval from China for its takeover of miner Xstrata.
A Chinese antitrust review has also contributed to a delay
in a tie-up between Omnicom and Publicis.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Jane Baird)