| CAMBRIDGE, England, April 25
CAMBRIDGE, England, April 25 Talk of a $100
billion bid by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer for its British
rival AstraZeneca is "a commercial matter between the
companies", Britain's finance minister George Osborne said on
Shares in Britain's second biggest drugs group hit record
highs this week on the bid speculation. Both companies have
declined to comment on a weekend newspaper report that
AstraZeneca spurned an approach from Pfizer earlier this year.
Several analysts believe Pfizer may be tempted back by
AstraZeneca's pipeline of cancer drugs, as well as the potential
to cut costs and make use of cash accumulated through foreign
subsidiaries that would be taxed if repatriated to the U.S.
Asked about the matter after delivering a speech on the
economic importance of Britain's science base, Osborne said the
reports were speculative and declined to comment on any possible
"It's a commercial matter between the companies," he said.
"I note that AstraZeneca has not put out any market statement,
which is something people's attention should be drawn to, but I
don't think I should comment further on that commercial matter."
Acquiring AstraZeneca would be the biggest ever foreign
takeover of a British company and the suggested deal has
triggered worries about jobs in Britain's pharmaceuticals
sector, which is viewed as a key industry by the government.
The healthcare sector is in the middle of a wave of
deal-making, with Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline
this week agreeing to trade more than $20 billion worth of
assets and Zimmer agreeing to buy rival orthopaedic
products maker Biomet for $13 billion.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, is in a $47
billion bid battle to buy Botox maker Allergan.
(Writing by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Sophie Walker)