Focus on: Pharma bosses face MPs over merger

Day one of the select committee hearing on Pfizer’s planned takeover of Astrazeneca threw up questions on everything from job guarantees to the Takeover Code and Ian Read’s bizarre gold decision coin. Here’s what you need to know.

IAN READ
Pfizer chairman and chief executive

I have not seen Astrazeneca’s books. Some things are sight-unseen. But the numbers will be substantial... We are a highly ethical company. Pfizer is a company that keeps its promises.”

PASCAL SORIOT
Astrazeneca chief executive

“What will we tell the person whose father died from lung cancer because one of our medicines was delayed because ... our companies were involved in saving taxes or saving costs?

VINCE CABLE
Business secretary

When we are talking to the companies about assurances, they have to understand that as a government we would under certain circumstances consider intervention

AT-A-GLANCE: WHAT WAS REVEALED TO THE COMMITTEE

IAN READ
■ R&D spending would fall post-merger and there would be job losses
■ Confirmed that units could be sold off if a merger was successful
■ Said he could not be more specific about job cuts and savings without access to Astrazeneca’s books
■ Told the panel: “I’m a man of my word” in response to questions over his commitment to preserving UK jobs and development
■ Said his gold coin – printed with “Own it” on one side and “straight talk” on the other – represented the fact that everyone needs to have a sense of ownership and to do that you need ability to do straight talk.

PASCAL SORIOT
■ Said Astrazeneca’s pipeline would be disrupted by a merger, including key cancer treatments
■ Insisted that Astrazeneca is focused on innovation and that M&A must be science driven
■ Revealed that the company did not pay any UK tax last year, after its income from exports shrank due to patent losses
■ Refused to rule out accepting a bid from Pfizer if it was strong enough

VINCE CABLE
■ Said Ian Read’s word was not enough for the government to take as a commitment to preserve jobs and R&D spending
■ Highlighted that the Takeover Panel's new powers have never been tested in court
■ Claimed that there are “legislative remedies” available to the government and that it could extend the definition of public interest to include R&D
■ Said HMRC would look at Astrazeneca’s tax payments

THE STORY SO FAR: PFIZER’S PURSUIT OF ASTRAZENECA

MONDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2013
Pfizer’s Ian Read contacts Astrazeneca (AZ) over a possible deal; AZ’s Leif Johansson rebuffs the approach but both sides agree to meet in New York on the first Sunday of the new year to discuss in person.

SUNDAY 5 JANUARY 2014
AZ and Pfizer meet in New York, where Pfizer tables a £58.8bn offer for the company.

SUNDAY 12 JANUARY
After a week of discussions, AZ officially rejects the offer.

WEDNESDAY 15 JANUARY
Pfizer writes to AZ saying it is no longer interested in the business.

SUNDAY 20 APRIL
A story appears in the Sunday Times detailing the January discussions.

SATURDAY 26 APRIL
Read phones Johansson, saying Pfizer still wants to buy the company. He tells Johansson that both companies should issue a statement announcing they had entered in discussions.

MONDAY 28 APRIL
Pfizer issues a statement to the London stock market as it opens saying it wants a merger, forcing Astrazeneca into issuing a statement hours later.

TUESDAY 29 APRIL
Ian Read flies into London to lobby on behalf of Pfizer to politicians that any deal should be allowed to proceed.

MONDAY 5 APRIL
Pfizer reports quarterly revenue well below Wall Street expectations, as Read says he is “very disappointed with [Astrazeneca’s] unwillingness to engage in conversations”.

TUESDAY 6 APRIL
Astrazeneca lays out its defence by predicting its sales will rise by three quarters over the next decade

YESTERDAY
The rival chief execs and business secretary Vince Cable faced MPs questions

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