AstraZeneca shares gain on speculation of new Pfizer bid

Reuters - UK Focus

LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) shares gained2 percent in early trading on Thursday on speculation that U.S.drugmaker Pfizer (NYSE: PFE - news) was about to return with a higher bidworth more than 53 pounds a share, traders said.

A bid at that level would value Britain's second-biggestpharmaceuticals group at around $113 billion.

Pfizer's previous approach, which was promptly rejected bythe AstraZeneca board, initially valued the group at $106billion - but the value of that cash-and-stock offer has sinceslipped because of a fall in Pfizer shares following weakquarterly results.

A stock market report in the Daily Mail newspaper said manyinvestors believed Pfizer was working with its advisers on a"knockout offer" of 53 pounds or more per share that would bemade by the weekend.

"The deal is not there, but it's not off the table either,"Dafydd Davies, senior trader at London-based Prime Wealth Group,said.

Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read is heading to London nextweek to lay out his case for a merger in front of twoparliamentary committees on May 13 and 14.

A spokesman for Pfizer had no comment on the company's bidplans.

($1 = 0.5894 British Pounds) (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Ben Hirschler; Editing byDavid Holmes)

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