AstraZeneca shareholder AXA says company 'arguably wrong' in quickly rejecting Pfizer bid

LONDON – Another AstraZeneca shareholder has criticized the pharmaceutical company’s handling of Pfizer’s $119 billion takeover bid, saying Wednesday it was “arguably wrong” to reject it so quickly.

Pfizer Inc. this week raised its stock-and-cash offer for a third time this year, to 55 pounds ($93) per share. But AstraZeneca rejected the bid just hours later, saying it undervalued the company, which has promising new drugs in the pipeline.

Since then, some shareholders have said AstraZeneca was too quick to shoot down the bid, which Pfizer has said would not be raised again. The $119 billion deal would be the richest acquisition ever among drug makers and the third-biggest in any industry.

“We believe that the board was arguably wrong and acted too hastily to dismiss the latest proposal from Pfizer,” said Jim Stride, the director of UK equities for AXA Investment Managers UK, on Wednesday. AXA Investment Managers UK holds just under 1 per cent of AstraZeneca’s stock.

Stride said AstraZeneca’s board “should not prevent an offer” from being put to the company’s shareholders.

Though it has said its indicative offer is final, Pfizer has until 5 p.m. local time on May 26 to make a formal bid under U.K. law. If it doesn’t, it cannot make another offer for six months. Pfizer has said it will not mount a hostile takeover bid.

Other institutional shareholders including Schroders, which holds a 2 per cent stake, and Jupiter Fund Management, which holds 0.6 per cent, have also expressed disappointment with the decision.