So late last night US drugs giant Pfizer made what it promised will be its final offer for AstraZeneca, and with all the spontaneity of a Japanese train timetable, AstraZeneca duly rejected it. So much for what would have been the biggest foreign takeover in the history of British business.
Pfizer's statement, headlined in shouty capitals, offered AstraZeneca shareholders about £55 a share (it's currently trading at £42, having shed 13% this morning), and promised that a) this will be the last offer it makes and b) it definitely won't go hostile.
In a statement headed in equally shouty fashion, AstraZeneca said the offer still wasn't enough. Leif Johansson, AstraZeneca's chairman, said after Pfizer's bid of £53.70 a share on Friday night, he and other board members had had a 'lengthy discussion'.
'We indicated, even assuming that other key aspects of any proposal had been satisfactory, that the price at which the board of AstraZeneca would be prepared to provide a recommendation would have to be more than 10% above the level contained in Pfizer's Friday proposal. The final proposal is a minor improvement which continues to fall short of the board's view of value and has been rejected.'
He added that Pfizer had ‘failed to make a compelling strategic, business or value case' - rather, that its bid was mainly down to ‘the corporate financial benefits’ it would have reaped. The UK's generous corporate tax rate (20% against the US' 35%) would allow it to repatriate $47bn it's had sloshing around various international bank accounts for several years now far more cheaply than if it took them back to the US.
So is this the end of AstraPfizerca? Perhaps. Although shareholders could force the board to go back to the table - so it could be that Pfizer has hit the phones today, and is trying to persuade investors that jam today is worth a lot more than jam tomorrow. Although word on the street is that shareholders won’t be willing to talk unless Pfizer offers upwards of £57 a share. So it sounds like AstraZeneca is safe for now…