AstraZeneca: drugs bust | Editorial

The potential takeover of the British pharmaceutical company by Pfizer leaves the government facing a serious double challenge

AstraZeneca is Britain’s second-biggest pharmaceutical company. It employs 7,000 people here, supports another 23,000 jobs and it contributes, on its calculations, £3.8bn in value added to the UK economy and about 2.3% of British goods exports. It is building a £330m headquarters in Cambridge that will be an important ingredient in the so-called golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and the London universities which, Boris Johnson declared earlier this month, will become a life sciences centre to rival the Boston Bay area in the US. In short, AstraZeneca is absolutely integral to the future of Britain’s science base. It is also rumoured to be prey for an even bigger, even richer company, Pfizer. That’s the US-based giant which shut down its research and development centre at Sandwich in Kent three years ago with the loss of 2,400 jobs.

Last weekend it was reported that AstraZeneca had rebuffed a potential bid from Pfizer of £60bn. But no one thinks the US company has gone away. A deal of that size would make it the biggest takeover of a British firm in UK history, five times the size of the highly controversial Kraft capture of Cadbury in 2010, three times as big as Telefonica’s purchase of O2 in 2005. The signs are that AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot is ready to fight, warning of the disruptive impact of such deals, just as his company looks poised to launch a new generation of cancer and respiratory drugs.

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Pharmaceuticals industry | The Guardian

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