LONDON May 15 Pfizer's potential
takeover of AstraZeneca poses a threat to British
science unless the U.S. drugmaker can give more concrete,
enforceable guarantees on jobs and investment, politicians
scrutinising the deal said on Thursday.
London-based AstraZeneca has rejected a $106 billion offer
from Pfizer and expressed concern that Pfizer would shut down
important research to save costs should the two merge. But it
has also said it would have to consider an offer if the price
was right, and Pfizer has said it could up its offer.
Over two days of parliamentary questioning, Pfizer Chief
Executive Ian Read defended his five-year commitment to complete
AstraZeneca's 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 he also said he expected the group's combined research
and development spending to fall, and declined to give further
commitments about how many jobs might ultimately be lost if the
merger went ahead.
Andrew Miller, the chairman of parliament's science
committee, which questioned executives from both firms on
Wednesday, said he was not satisfied with Pfizer's promises or
convinced of government's ability to enforce them.
"The national stake in the proposed transaction with Pfizer
is unusually high: any threat to AstraZeneca's research capacity
must, to an extent, be considered a threat to UK science,"
Miller said in a letter to Science Minister David Willetts.
"Whether or not the government is able to hold Pfizer to
these promises - and we are not yet confident it can - further,
longer-term guarantees need to be obtained before we can be
confident of Pfizer's commitment to the UK."
Miller said that five-year commitments were of limited value
in an industry that "measures progress by decades rather than
The government has been talking to both firms about the deal
and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is pushing for more
assurances. Business Secretary Vince Cable said on Tuesday the
Pfizer commitments were a starting point for negotiations and
that he was seeking "meaningful and binding" pledges.
Pfizer's Read said on Tuesday that the group's commitments
were legally binding.
The government has said it has options to subject any deal
to a public interest test, but any such move would involve
changes to existing laws and a final decision could rest with
the European Union.
(Editing by Ben Hirschler and Sophie Walker)