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08/05/2014 - Would AstraZeneca sale be in national interest?

astrazenecaThere is huge speculation about a possible hostile bid for AstraZeneca by Pfizer after its 63 billion pound takeover offer was spurned.

Pfizer is a US pharmaceutical giant. AstraZeneca plc is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company headquartered in London.

The Prime Minister is enthusiastic about the deal. Former City minister Lord Myners has said Cameron was ill advised to get drawn into becoming a "cheerleader" for the proposal.

Myners also told ITV that it is "simply not acceptable" to say the tie-up is not a matter of public interest and cannot simply be left to shareholders."

So what would it mean for UK manufacturing and is it in the national interest?

The Unions GMB, Solidarity and Unite have urged the government to act in the national interest (for a change!).

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Unite and the GMB have stepped up their calls for an urgent meeting with Vince Cable.

“The workforce and the unions have acted in a responsible manner and shown remarkable patience, but that is now wearing thin. Ed Miliband’s sensible intervention at the weekend for a national interest test should be acted on, neither the German or the French governments would be simply waving through a takeover on this scale.

“AstraZeneca is a key player in the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector and as such is strategically important to the UK. Yet David Cameron and George Osborne seem comfortable waving the deal through, leaving any manufacturing strategy in tatters. Cameron says he has assurances on jobs and the future of the UK plants and we would like to know what they are.

“Smelling a quick profit, City institutions are now also pressing AstraZeneca to sit down and agree a deal with Pfizer. The companies should be talking to their workforces, as they would have to do in other countries before any deal goes through.”

Tony Burke went on to that the both trade unions would welcome the opportunity to give evidence to House of Commons House Of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, adding: ”We understand that Adrian Bailey MP, Chair of the House Of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee is looking to call AstraZeneca and Pfizer before his committee. Both Unite and the GMB would welcome the opportunity to give evidence and explore his idea of a legally binding agreement on jobs and the future of the Astra Zeneca in the UK.

“We would also welcome an opportunity to meet with the Commons Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Labour MP Andrew Miller, which is proposing holding a parliamentary inquiry into the potential takeover and its impact on research and development in Britain.”

Sweden's finance minister, Anders Borg, said Pfizer failed to honour promises made on research jobs when it bought Swedish drugmaker Pharmacia in 2002. He told BBC Radio 4: "Our experience shows that their track record is not very convincing and I think one should take these kind of promises not only with a pinch of salt but a sack full of salt."

Pat Harrington, general secretary of the Solidarity union, said: "Let's not pretend that huge changes in the marketplace don't have strategic and political consequences. The Unions are right to point out the lack of consultation and involvement as well as the fact that the national interest isn't being actively considered. The Swedish experience shows we should be worried about assurances from Pfizer"