MPs demand urgent talks as US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer poised for hostile takeover, writes Will Stone in Morning Star 7.5.14

Unions demanded urgent talks with Vince Cable yesterday as speculation mounted that US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is poised for a hostile takeover of British rival AstraZeneca, threatening thousands of jobs.
The Business Secretary indicated he was considering reforms to the “public interest test” for corporate takeovers after an urgent Commons debate was called amid a political row over the decision.
Labour leader Ed Miliband demanded a full assessment of the potential deal following AstraZeneca’s rejection of a £63 billion offer by Pfizer that it said “substantially” undervalued the business.
But Unite and GMB have called on Mr Cable to meet them to press the case for jobs, which could be cut or farmed-out to the Far East if Pfizer makes a hostile takeover bid.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “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.”
Bosses of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca will be quizzed by MPs sitting on two committees — business select and science and technology — to seek assurances about job security as well as the impact on Britain’s research and development if the takeover goes ahead.
Unite and GMB have welcomed the opportunity to give evidence and explore the idea of a legally binding agreement on jobs and the future of AstraZeneca in Britain.
Mr Miliband has written to David Cameron calling for the publication of any analysis the government has made of the proposal and claimed the Prime Minister had been acting as a “cheerleader” for the proposed deal.
He proposed widening the scope of the public interest test to take in industries of strategic importance — such as the high-value scientific research carried out by AstraZeneca.
The government can currently intervene on mergers or takeovers where there is a national security issue, an issue of media plurality, competition concerns or if it could affect financial stability.
Mr Cameron has said the government had received “robust” assurances from Pfizer about protection for British jobs and research under the proposed deal and stressed it was a decision for shareholders.
Campaign for Public Ownership spokesman Neil Clark said the takeover should bring questions about nationalising the pharmaceutical industry back in the limelight.