AstraZeneca fends off Pfizer takeover, but the road ahead has potholes

     (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

    (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

    The British pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, which has a strong footprint in Delaware, has successfully fended off Pfizer’s takeover attempt.

    Pfizer officially announced it won’t pursue the deal Monday, leaving each company with an uncertain future.

    The deal would have created the world’s largest drug company, but it sparked worries in the United Kingdom, and in Delaware, where AstraZeneca has its U.S. headquarters and employs more than 2,000 people.

    Pfizer, based in New York, had presented AstraZeneca with four offers in recent months. But AstraZeneca’s board wouldn’t budge, saying the final offer of more $100 billion in cash and stocks undervalued the company. 

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    The deal isn’t totally dead, however, according to Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in mergers and acquisitions. Gordon finds some wiggle room in the wording in Pfizer’s announcement Monday that it won’t pursue its bid.

    “They said that the price they offered was a good full price ‘given the information they had.'” Gordon said. “That’s the kind of language you say that leaves the door open to make a higher offer if you get different information, So I think Pfizer is keeping its options open.”

    Pfizer’s deadline to move forward with its current offer expired Monday under U.K merger rules.

    Gordon says the company will now have to wait six months before initiating another offer, if it so chooses. AstraZeneca could also invite Pfizer back to the table in three months.

    Tom Gordon, county executive of New Castle County in Delaware, where AstraZeneca’s North American headquarters is based, thinks that even without this merger, Pfizer’s attempt signals more instability to come.

    “I think it’s a good thing not going through,” said Tom Gordon. “But I think as long as these mergers and acquisitions are allowed to take place without anybody enforcing anti-trust laws, it’s going to happen again. It’s going to continue happening until there’s very little left of our Delaware or American economy.”

    Tom Gordon and other government leaders in the U.S. and the U.K. have voiced concerns that Pfizer’s larger motive to buy AstraZeneca had to do with avoiding U.S. corporate taxes.

    University of Michigan’s Erik Gordon, meanwhile, says the months ahead will be crucial for AstraZeneca, in terms of the progress it needs to make developing the cancer drugs it’s been citing as key to the company’s worth.

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