* Brokers downgrade stock after Pfizer abandons takeover bid
* Shares down 2.3 percent but still above mid-April level
(Adds further broker downgrades, details)
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, May 27 Shares in AstraZeneca
fell 2.3 percent on Tuesday after U.S. drugmaker Pfizer
said it would not make a formal bid to acquire its smaller
Pfizer's decision - announced on Monday during a public
holiday - had been widely expected after a rejection by
AstraZeneca's board of its final offer of 55 pounds a share.
Under British takeover rules, AstraZeneca could reach out to
Pfizer in three months and Pfizer could take another run at its
smaller British rival in six months' time, whether it is invited
back or not. But an immediate deal is off the agenda.
Pfizer's final offer was at a price that many analysts and
investors had previously suggested would bring AstraZeneca to
the table for serious negotiations.
But in rejecting an earlier offer of 53.50 pounds as
undervaluing the company, the British group indicated that it
needed a bid more than 10 percent higher, or at least 58.85
pounds per share, for its board to consider a recommendation.
Pfizer had urged AstraZeneca shareholders to agitate for
engagement and several expressed disappointment at its
intransigence, though others - encouraged by AstraZeneca's
promising drug pipeline - backed the standalone strategy.
The shares fell back to 42.29 pounds by 0820 GMT, still a
premium to the undisturbed price of 37.82 pounds before Pfizer's
bid interest was first reported in mid-April.
Several brokerages, including Societe Generale, Panmure
Gordon and Kepler Cheuvreux, cut their recommendations or price
targets for AstraZeneca after Pfizer's decision to abandon its
attempt to buy the British company.
SocGen analyst Stephen McGarry, who downgraded the stock to
"sell" from "hold" and set a price target of 36 pounds a share,
said the onus was now on AstraZeneca to deliver on its bullish
forecasts for sales to grow 75 percent to $45 billion by 2023.
Now that the Pfizer bid has gone, AstraZeneca will need to
deliver on its aggressive 2023 targets, he said in a note,
adding that SocGen believes the targets are likely to be
"unattainable without AstraZeneca adding to its revenue and
profit stream via M&A activity".
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman)