Pfizer’s Read Says AstraZeneca Deal Will Meet Scientific Needs

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the U.S. drugmaker seeking to acquire AstraZeneca Plc (AZN), advanced its U.K. charm offensive with a series of videos extolling the scientific benefits, while downplaying the potential tax advantages.

“It really meets the scientific needs,” Chief Executive Officer Ian Read said today in a video and statement on Pfizer’s website. “It meets needs of efficiency, it meets needs of strengthening our balance sheet and strengthening our fiscal position.”

AstraZeneca rejected the bid of about $106 billion from Pfizer earlier this month. Buying the company would give Pfizer a lower tax rate and a portfolio of experimental cancer drugs. Read and Pascal Soriot, CEO of London-based AstraZeneca, will testify to U.K. lawmakers next week amid political tension over public-interest issues related to the takeover.

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said on BBC Radio 4 today that the government wants to clarify what a deal would mean for British scientific research and jobs. Lawmakers are prepared to negotiate hard as they engage both companies, he said.

AstraZeneca shareholders will “get an immediate benefit from the cash that we would pay them,” Pfizer’s Read said. “It allows them to participate in a very strong combined company with great cash flows and a great portfolio, and it allows a very efficient allocation of capital.”

“Improving the efficiency of the organization” and the ability to “liberate the balance sheet and tax of the combined companies” are the key reasons for the takeover, Read said. “We liked where their science is being done, which is in the U.K. We liked the complementary nature of the portfolio.”

Read may soon also face government inquiries in the U.S. Pfizer has said it plans to keep the company’s operating headquarters in the U.S., even as its legal address shifts to the U.K. for the lower tax rate.

There was no immediate reply to two telephone messages and an e-mail sent to AstraZeneca’s London offices.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Charlton in London at echarlton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mike Harrison at mharrison5@bloomberg.net James Amott, Heather Langan

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