AstraZeneca investors call for renewed talks on Pfizer proposal

Major shareholders want negotiations to start in August

BlackRock and Schroders are among the big shareholders  that have told AstraZeneca they want the company to take a fresh look at a deal after the three-month cooling off period required under UK takeover rules.

BlackRock and Schroders are among the big shareholders that have told AstraZeneca they want the company to take a fresh look at a deal after the three-month cooling off period required under UK takeover rules.

 

Big shareholders in AstraZeneca have told the UK drugmaker they want the board to reopen takeover talks with Pfizer in August, after accepting that a deal is unlikely to be agreed with its US rival before Monday’s bid deadline.

BlackRock and Schroders are among those that have told AstraZeneca they want the company to take a fresh look at a deal after the three-month cooling off period required under UK takeover rules.

AstraZeneca has faced intense pressure from shareholders since Monday’s rejection of a £69.4 billion cash and share proposal from Pfizer. Several investors, including Jupiter and Axa’s UK investment arm, have publicly called for more talks and others have also done so in private. But as time runs out before the May 26th deadline, investors are pushing for renewed talks.

Crucial position As AstraZeneca’s biggest shareholder with about 8 per cent, BlackRock’s position is crucial. The fund manager has declined to take a public stance. However, people familiar with BlackRock said yesterday that it backed the decision to reject Pfizer’s latest offer, but wanted fresh negotiations to see if it could be improved.

Under UK takeover rules, Pfizer would be barred for six months from making another unsolicited approach after Monday, but AstraZeneca could choose to reopen talks after three months.

People close to Schroders, a top 15 shareholder with 2.1 per cent, said that it was also keen for the two groups to re-engage as soon as possible. This suggests that, even if Pfizer’s £55 per share proposal lapses on Monday, its pursuit would not necessarily be dead.

“The probability of a future AstraZeneca acquisition is dimmed but not entirely extinguished,” said analysts at Barclays, who estimated the market was pricing in a 15 per cent chance of an agreed deal with Pfizer at £60 per share.

In talks last weekend, Leif Johansson, AstraZeneca’s chairman, indicated that the board would consider recommending an offer of about £59. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014