| LONDON, April 30
LONDON, April 30 British lawmakers intend to
investigate U.S. drugmaker Pfizer's planned $100 billion
takeover of British rival AstraZeneca in a bid to ensure
scientific research and jobs are protected.
Members of the parliamentary business, innovation and skills
committee are worried that the deal, which would be the
biggest-ever foreign acquisition of a British company, could
threaten the country's strategic interests.
"We are keen to look closely at it," committee member Ann
McKechin told Reuters.
"We will see how events pan out over the next few days, but
clearly given the scale of the proposed merger it is important
that we consider the impact not just on shareholders but also on
employees and the wider interests of the UK."
AstraZeneca, Britain's second-biggest drugmaker behind
GlaxoSmithKline, is an important part of the life
sciences sector and employs nearly 7,000 staff in the country.
Politicians are wary of foreign takeovers in the light of
Kraft's 2010 acquisition of Cadbury, when the U.S. food
group promised to keep open a key factory, only to go back on
the pledge soon after the deal was completed.
"The committee previously had a great deal of concern over
the Cadbury takeover, so I think this is one we will really have
to closely analyse what is on offer," McKechin said.
Pfizer already has a tarnished reputation in Britain after
it announced plans in 2011 to shutter a major drug research site
in Sandwich, southern England, where Viagra was invented, with
the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs.
The U.S. firm says it views Britain as an attractive
location for both pharmaceutical research and manufacturing -
helped by recent government tax incentives - but cannot make any
firm commitments on future investment or jobs.
Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read is in Britain to lobby
politicians and investors about his plans. The government has so
far adopted a neutral stance on the matter, but behind the
scenes officials are warning Pfizer against making draconian
research job cuts, industry sources said.
Pfizer has made two approaches to AstraZeneca, both of which
have been rebuffed. The company is widely expected to come back
with a revised offer before a May 26 deadline for it to "put up
or shut up" under UK takeover rules.
(Editing by David Holmes)