Pfizer/AstraZeneca and the Public Interest: Do U.K. Foreign Takeover Proposals Prescribe an Effective Remedy?

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

David Reader, Oct 15, 2014

When U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer sought to acquire its U.K.-listed counterpart AstraZeneca earlier this year, much discussion centered around the possible adverse impact that the merger could have on the U.K.’s science base, particularly in light of Pfizer’s questionable track record for asset-stripping and cutting investment in Research and Development (“R&D”). Although the proposed £69 billion (U.S. $117 billion) takeover ultimately crumbled, the prospect of Pfizer returning with an improved offer in the near future has led many to ask whether the United Kingdom should adopt a tougher stance on foreign takeovers that threaten the national interest. The U.K.’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP, has since proposed new safeguards to counteract these perceived threats; but do they represent the best course of action in practice?