City institutions split over Astra bid rejection as pressure mounts

Michael Bow
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HEAVYWEIGHT City stockpickers were split last night over the impending collapse of Astrazeneca’s takeover, with FTSE 100 giant Schroders and the UK’s best known manager Neil Woodford divided over the deal.

Woodford, one of Astrazeneca’s most influential shareholders, said he believed the business would prosper without a takeover by US drug firm Pfizer. He backed the decision by chief executive Pascal Soriot to bat away Pfizer’s final £55 a share offer. “I applaud the board’s resolute resistance of the Pfizer approach,” he said in a statement.

Fidelity’s global equity CIO Dominic Rossi added his support: “I think Astra did the right thing,” he said. “I don’t think that Pfizer was a suitable partner. It was motived by tax and finance considerations.”

But FTSE 100-listed Schroders, which manages £268bn, urged Astrazeneca to reconsider its position and start engaging with Pfizer again, joining a chorus of disapproval from fund rivals like Jupiter and Axa over the Astra board’s behaviour.

Last night Astrazeneca chairman Leif Johansson signalled the death of the deal by confirming that Pfizer could not bump up its bid. “This restriction that prevents further negotiation on value is a consequence of Pfizer’s actions,” he added.