LONDON May 14 Pfizer faces calls to
extend its commitment to UK jobs and research to least 10 years
as the U.S. drugmaker's boss prepares for a second day of
questioning from lawmakers over its plan to buy AstraZeneca
After an initial grilling in which Chief Executive Ian Read
admitted a merger would mean job losses and reduced research
spending, Read returns for another session of tough questioning
by a parliamentary science committee on Wednesday.
Pfizer has indicated it could raise its offer for Britain's
second-biggest drugmaker from $106 billion, if AstraZeneca is
prepared to talk, but lawmakers are deeply concerned about the
impact of a takeover on the country's science base.
The U.S. company has a record of making deep job cuts after
past takeover of companies like Wyeth, Warner-Lambert and
On Tuesday, the chairman of the business committee, Adrian
Bailey, said Pfizer had been called a "praying mantis" and a
"shark that needs feeding", and he asked Read: "What can you say
to this committee to convince us that this is a leopard that has
changed its spots?"
That critical tone is likely to be carried over into the
second day of hearings, when the lawmakers will focus on the
concerns of the scientific community, which has had close ties
with AstraZeneca and its legacy companies for decades.
Nobel laureate Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal
Society and one of Britain's top scientists, wrote to the
chairman of the science committee Andrew Miller to express his
concern that Pfizer's promises so far were vague and inadequate.
Pfizer has given a five-year commitment to complete
AstraZeneca's new research centre in Cambridge, retain a factory
in the northwestern English town of Macclesfield and put a fifth
of its research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead.
But it has also said this could be altered if circumstances
change "significantly" and Scottish-born Read said he could not
commit to maintaining a specific R&D budget for Britain.
Nurse said a five-year pledge was simply not good enough.
"A five-year commitment to the UK is insufficient. A
commitment of at least 10 years is required. Science is not a
quick win," he wrote.
AstraZeneca has rejected Pfizer's cash-and-stock offer,
which was worth 50 pounds a share at the time it was made on May
2, arguing that it has a bright future as an independent
business, with a pipeline of promising new drugs.
The British company's French-born CEO Pascal Soriot said
Pfizer's proposal not only undervalued his company but risked
disrupting its research and delaying getting life-saving new
drugs to market.
Parliamentary select committees cannot block corporate
transactions but they can question executives ferociously, as
banks, energy companies and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp
have all found out in the past.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)