BlackRock Is Said to Encourage Pfizer-AstraZeneca Talks

AstraZeneca Plc’s biggest shareholder says the drugmaker and its potential acquirer Pfizer Inc. should continue to talk, a person with knowledge of the matter said. A second investor also pushed for negotiations.

BlackRock Inc., which owns 8 percent of London-based AstraZeneca and 6.8 percent of Pfizer, is encouraging discussions between the two companies, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo & Co., which holds 1.3 percent of AstraZeneca shares according to filings, said today it is in favor of new talks.

“We’re very disappointed that AstraZeneca management has not agreed to terms we think are beneficial to the shareholders,” Thomas Hancock, co-head of Grantham, Mayo’s Global Equity group, said in an e-mail.

Money-management firms have been weighing in since AstraZeneca spurned New York-based Pfizer’s 69 billion-pound ($116 billion) takeover proposal on May 19. The U.S. company has until 5 p.m. London time on May 26 to make a firm offer. If it doesn’t, Pfizer can’t come back with another bid for six months, except in certain circumstances, according to U.K. takeover rules. Pfizer can renew its effort after three months if it’s invited to do so by AstraZeneca.

Pfizer on May 18 declared its sweetened offer, valued at 55 pounds a share, as final under the current process, so by U.K. rules it can’t raise the bid.

Lauren Post, a spokeswoman for BlackRock in New York, declined to comment. BlackRock, based in New York, is the world’s largest money manager.

Sky News reported BlackRock’s view earlier today.

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