Pfizer and AstraZeneca
A matter of trust
British politicians are understating their nation's appeal to drugs firms
IAN READ, the chief executive of Pfizer, an American-based drugs giant, says his company wants to go where it is welcome. Odd, then, that Pfizer persists in trying to make Britain its second home. Its attempt to acquire AstraZeneca, Britain's second-largest pharmaceuticals firm, and establish a tax residence in the country is running into fire from many directions.
A few weeks ago Mr Read impressed David Cameron, the prime minister, with promises to keep jobs and production in Britain if a deal went through. But MPs who quizzed him on May 13th and 14th criticised these assurances as vague and insufficient. Pressed for more details, Mr Read said he could not supply them, as he had not yet seen AstraZeneca's books. He conceded that “there will be some jobs cut somewhere”, though he could not yet say where they would be.
MPs see worrying parallels with Pfizer's past acquisitions. After it bought Wyeth, an American drugmaker, in 2009 the new company's research and development budget was slashed from about 11 billion to 7 billion a year. If Pfizer and AstraZeneca were to merge, the combined R&D budget would be about 12 billion. Mr Read promises to place at least 20% of the new company's R&D staff in Britain. Even so, this could mean fewer jobs: he did not specify the total research workforce.
As The Economist went to press the firm was expected to raise and formalise its bid for AstraZeneca, currently at 63 billion. The government expects a sweeter offer, too. Mr Read's promises are just a “starting point” for negotiations, says Vince Cable, the business secretary, who wants more binding commitments. Others insist they should last longer than five years, as currently stipulated: drug development often takes decades. Mr Cameron now says he too is unsatisfied. He and Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, are competing to sound tougher on Pfizer.
Yet British politicians are understating the lure of their own country to drugs firms. R&D tax credits and a new “patent box”, which taxes profits from inventions registered in Britain at just 10%, are powerful draws, as are Britain's best universities. Indeed, even as politicians worry about losing jobs to America, lawmakers in America fear the opposite. The governors of Delaware and Maryland, where AstraZeneca operates, are seeking assurances from Pfizer similar to those given to Mr Cameron. Mr Read has so far demurred.
A further reason for optimism is that AstraZeneca has already done much of the dirty work that might be expected of Pfizer should a deal be done. Over the last seven years the firm has cut 5,100 jobs in Britain and closed a research lab in Cheshire. Last year, due largely to lost revenue from an expiring patent, it did not pay British corporation tax. Most of its workforce and drug development are abroad: see article
AstraZeneca's boss, Pascal Soriot, has so far rebuffed Pfizer. He has tried to convince investors and British politicians that, after years of lagging behind competitors, AstraZeneca is now better off on its own. He touts a pipeline of potentially lucrative cancer drugs and warns darkly that a merger would lead to delays and perhaps deaths. British lawmakers seem inclined to protect their “crown jewel”, as one MP put it. But they will find it hard to stop a deal. The final decision will rest with the company's shareholders, many of whom are eager to see Pfizer's next offer.
阿斯利康CEO帕斯卡尔·索里奥特仍然拒绝辉瑞的收购。他试图让投资者和英国政客相信，虽然落后其竞争对手很多年，但阿斯利康自己情况已经有所好转。他吹嘘自己有渠道搞到治疗癌症的药物，可能获利巨大，但是警告说并购会带来延缓甚至死亡。一名议员此前称，英国政客目前似乎并不想再捍卫其“最高权杖”。但是他们会发现，终止并购非常困难。最终的决定取决于阿斯利康的各个股东，他们中有不少人热切的盼望着辉瑞的下一次开价。译者 周雨晴 校对 卫婷婷
1.appeal to 呼吁；要求
例句:Economic change for its own sake did not appeal to him.
2.want to 想去；想要
例句:When life gets hard and you want to give up, remember that life is full of ups and downs, and without the downs, the ups would mean nothing.
3.promise to 承诺；保证
例句:I'm hoping you'll keep your promise to come for a long visit.
4.expect to 期望
例句:You cannot expect to like all the people you will work with.