Swedish ministers urge Astra owners to consider Pfizer rebuff

Reuters - UK Focus

STOCKHOLM, May 16 (Reuters) - Owners of drugmakerAstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) , which has half its roots in Sweden, shouldseriously consider rejecting U.S. rival Pfizer (NYSE: PFE - news) 's proposed takeover unless the consequences are mapped out moreclearly, three Swedish government ministers said.

Finance Minister Anders Borg, Enterprise Minister Annie Loofand Education Minister Jan Bjorklund said in a signed opinionpiece in the Wall Street Journal that Sweden had been reluctantto agree to EU rules that would require public interest testsfor business deals.

"However, the arguments against such regulation get weakerwhen we consider past experiences of non-cooperativetransactions, such as the one Pfizer is currently trying toaccomplish, and the implications they hold for medicalresearch," the ministers said.

Borg, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and opposition leaderStefan Lofven have previously expressed fears the $106 billionapproach bid would lead to job losses in Sweden.

AstraZeneca, which employs some 5,900 people in Sweden, hasrejected Pfizer's current offer but the U.S. group is widelyexpected to come back with a sweetened bid.

Borg, Loof and Bjorklund said in their article on Fridaythat the guarantees offered by Pfizer over retaining researchand jobs in Europe were not sufficient.

"If there is no further clarity regarding the effects ofPfizer's possible semi-hostile takeover of AstraZeneca, ourconclusion ... is that AstraZeneca's owners should seriouslyconsider rejecting Pfizer's proposal," the ministers said. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard; editing by Ben Hirschler)

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