Pfizer takes a tumble, but that’s not end of story

Pfizer’s defeat is the best news for British industry for a very long time, but it still leaves a lot of unfinished business. In particular there are three issues that urgently need to be determined now, well before the next crunch comes about Britain’s strategic industrial assets. The first is obviously that we need a proper and adequate definition of the public interest written into statute in order to safeguard the key elements of Britain’s national economy. At present the government can only intervene on the basis of the criteria set down in the Enterprise Act 2002, namely on grounds of national security, media plurality and financial stability. In the AstraZeneca case it was an open question whether the ‘national security’ criterion could be used to cover the function of the public interest, and anyway it would have required the approval of the EU Commission under their State Aids rules to agree that the existing legislation could be used in that way. That dubiety is not acceptable, and clearly new legislation is urgently needed to end the uncertainty. Continue reading

Why AstraZeneca’s ownership matters

AstroZeneca logoSome points about the attempted take over of AstraZeneca by American pharmaceuticals behemoth, Pfizer.

1. On Newsnight yesterday evening, Chuka Umunna made the dialectically nuanced observation that there are good takeovers and bad takeovers, regardless of the nationality of who is making the purchase. A bad takeover might be Kraft’s swallowing of Cadbury, who’ve cut jobs and plant – something barely compensated by the bringing of Egg & Spoon and Jelly Popping Candy Shell bars to market. On the other hand, take North Staffs-based BakerBus, which has recently been purchased by a Bermuda-based outfit acting as a front for a Chinese coach manufacturer. As per normal, the new company came after terms and conditions but following a spirited defence by the workplace Unite branch, not only were the attacks beaten off but workers won an inflation-busting pay rise, and a 7.5% wage rise for the lowest grades. So that takeover didn’t turn out too badly. Continue reading