MPs to cause headaches for Pfizer

London - British legislators who are mobilising against Pfizer’s attempt to buy AstraZeneca have demanded that Business Secretary Vince Cable secure assurances on jobs and research investment.

Adrian Bailey, the chairman of parliament’s business committee, said it was likely to summon Pfizer executives to give evidence on their intentions.

UK company AstraZeneca's attempts to fight off the attentions of Pfizer will be aided by members of parliament who fear it will damage the economy and destroy jobs. Credit: Bloomberg

Julian Huppert, from Cable’s junior coalition Liberal Democrat Party, yesterday submitted a motion calling for ministers to “act as necessary to protect employment and skills in the UK”.

Prime Minister David Cameron has in the past praised Britain’s open economy, which suggests he would be reluctant to intervene in the proposed $99 billion (R1 trillion) deal.

Still, the government has mechanisms by which it could try to prevent a takeover. Pressure from parliament and Liberal Democrats with positions in the government could make that more likely.

“There is a great deal at stake,” Huppert said.

“This would be the largest takeover of a British firm. I want to make sure AstraZeneca retains its position in the UK.”

Pfizer chief executive Ian Read met UK ministers on Tuesday to discuss the potential takeover, according to a source.

Read emphasised plans for research, development and manufacturing in the UK, as well as the appeal of the British tax system, the source said.

Pfizer’s reputation in parliament has not been helped by its 2011 decision to close a research hub in Sandwich, south-east England, with 2 000 jobs lost.

AstraZeneca is moving to a new global headquarters and research centre in Cambridge, which is represented in parliament by Huppert.

Bailey’s committee will on Tuesday discuss whether to hold hearings with executives.

“I view it with great concern,” he said. “We have a company which closed its operations in Sandwich for tax purposes and now says it’s buying a British company for tax purposes.”