Pfizer Confirms AstraZeneca Interest

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- New York pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer (PFE) on Monday said it was considering making a renewed run at AstraZeneca AZN to strengthen its cancer treatments after a failed January approach and as rivals successfully expand their oncology businesses.

Pfizer said it hoped to offer AstraZeneca investors a "significant premium" after trying to lure AstraZeneca into talks with a 4,661 pence ($78.51) per-share offer, which it said represented a 30% premium for shareholders at the time. It envisages an offer in both cash and shares but said it may alter the final terms.

Although investors already pushed up the stock 7.9% last week amid reports of Pfizer's interest, AstraZeneca shares leapt 11.5%, or 481.50 pence, to 4,656.50 pence in Monday morning trading in London. That values the company at 58.8 billion pounds.

"We believe patients all over the globe would benefit from our shared commitment to R&D, which is critical to the future success of the pharmaceutical industry, in the form of potential new therapies that help to fight some of the world's most feared diseases, such as cancer," said Pfizer CEO and chairman Ian Read in a statement.

Drug companies the world over kicked off a consolidation a decade ago that has included a series of multi-billion dollar deals as manufacturers try to offset the loss of patents on blockbuster drugs. They've also spent to buy drug development companies and sold off less profitable assets.

Last week, Basel's Novartis (NVS) agreed to buy the oncology business of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), adding impetus to Pfizer's ambitions. Novartis also wants to sell its vaccine business to GlaxoSmithKline and link its over-the-counter business with the buyer's. Novartis also announced a deal to sell its animal health division to Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly (LLY).

In another recent oncology-related deal, Germany's Bayer in December agreed to pay nearly $3 billion for Norwegian partner Algeta, which recently began marketing a prostate cancer treatment.

AstraZeneca has reportedly tapped Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley to review any approaches.

Despite investor enthusiasm, analysts aren't so taken with Pfizer's plans.

"I view a takeover of AstraZeneca by the U.S. drug company exceptionally skeptically," wrote Deutsche Bank AG analyst Mark Clark in a note. He has a hold rating on AstraZeneca shares. Clark said AstraZeneca's oncology pipeline is too young to be of much help to Pfizer in the short term.

Meanwhile, Pfizer said combining with AstraZeneca would give it "industry-leading" treatments for various lung cancers as well as AstraZeneca's Faslodex, a breast cancer treatment in Phase 3 -- the final stage -- trials.

Pfizer said it also saw promise by combining their experimental oncology drugs and hoped to save money by combining non-overlapping activities.

A combined Pfizer and AstraZeneca would be based and listed in New York but have management in both New York and London, the company said.

AstraZeneca refused to comment.

Pfizer is taking financial advice from Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Fares Noujaim, Adrian Mee, Michael Findlay and Geoff Iles; a Guggenheim Securities LLC team of Alan Schwartz, Ken Springer and Jim Ferency; and JPMorgan Securities LLC's Steve Frank, Laurence Hollingworth, Mark Breuer and Christopher Dickinson.

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