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29/05/2014 - Takeovers: Do we need a public interest test?

astrazenecaIn the wake of the attempted takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer many are calling for a public interest test in major takeovers. Yesterday Pfizer announced it had conceded defeat but under existing Takeover Panel rules, talks on a tie-up could be reignited in three months if AstraZeneca invites Pfizer back to the negotiating table. If that does not happen, then Pfizer can make a new unsolicited bid in November later this year.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Pfizer failed to convince hardly anyone that their bid was good for science and would secure skilled jobs and manufacturing in the UK.

“There can be no room for complacency though. We expect that there will be renewed pressure on shareholders over the coming months with the likelihood that Pfizer could be back in its attempts to takeover AstraZeneca.

“The government needs to use this time to intervene and put a public interest test in place for proposed takeovers of this size, just as other government’s do, such as the French which has strengthened its powers to act to protect strategic industries.

“AstraZeneca’s workforce expects shareholders to stand firm, respect their responsibilities and back the board’s long term strategy.

“The future of vital life sciences in the UK and improvements in health are so much more important than the desire of one company to minimise its tax liabilities and wrangles over drug patents.

“This is why we urge the government to act responsibly and put in place a framework for a public interest test should Pfizer come back for AstraZeneca.”

The call was backed by the Solidarity Trade Union. Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, said:

"Some takeovers clearly have national interest implications and we should not pretend that they don't. We have to establish a mechanism to block takeovers that are simply not in our national interest. I think this is needed urgently whatever Pfizer now do."