Business Live: Vince Cable faces MPs over Pfizer deal

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  1.  
    06:00: Ben Morris Business Reporter

    The boss of Pfizer will have to justify his plan to buy AstraZeneca in front of MPs today. It should be a fascinating session and we'll be covering it on the Business live page, from 09:30. Stay with us.

     
  2.  
    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business Reporter

    Good morning! You can stay in touch via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @BBCBusiness

     
  3.  
    PFIZER HEARING 06:00:
    Kamal Ahmed

    If you want a great overview of the kind of questions that are likely to be directed at Pfizer's chief executive, then read the latest blog from BBC Business Editor Kamal Ahmed. He has been speaking to sources at the Business Select Committee where Pfizer's chief executive, and others, will be giving evidence from 09:30.

     
  4.  
    PFIZER HEARING 06:06: Radio 5 live

    Savvas Neophytou, a pharmaceuticals analyst at Panmure Gordon, says the AstraZeneca deal "makes sense" if the price is right. Pfizer will probably come back with a higher bid, he says. "Every public company will look towards maximising profits and Pfizer is no different." He says Pfizer, like other pharmaceutical firms, has had difficulty developing new products.

     
  5.  
    PFIZER HEARING 06:15: BBC Radio 4

    Today leads with the appearance of Pfizer's chief executive, Ian Read, at the Business Select Committee later this morning. Their lead item contains Labour leader, Ed Miliband's criticism of the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca. He says Pfizer spends less on R&D than AstraZeneca, has already closed plants in the UK and hasn't ruled out a break-up of AstraZeneca.

     
  6.  
    MARKETS 06:28: BBC Radio 4
    Trader

    Simon Jack on Today reminds us that we are not that far from an all-time high on the FTSE 100, 15 years on from the time of the dot-com bubble. "If the stock market gets ahead of profits growth then we could be in trouble," says Jane Sydenham, investment director, from Rathbones Investment Management. But she says investors are encouraged by good news from manufacturing, services and the housing market. China may be slowing but that "is not new news".

     
  7.  
    INTEREST RATES 06:33: Radio 5 live

    Nicky Morgan, financial secretary to the Treasury, has been on 5 live. She was asked what the effect will be if the cost of borrowing goes up. Ms Morgan trusts the public to understand that rising interest rates will mean a more expensive mortgage. People's "savings ratio is higher than pre-recession," she says.

     
  8.  
    PFIZER HEARING 06:40: BBC Radio 4

    Savvas Neophytou, pharmaceuticals analyst at Panmure Gordon, is back, this time on Today. He is asked if Pfizer's promises have any legal weight. "A management team cannot make commitments for future management teams," he says. "They are just rhetoric". But Mr Neophytou says there are good business reasons for Pfizer to keep jobs and research in the UK.

     
  9.  
    HEATHROW EXPANSION 06:51: BBC Radio 4

    The Airports Commission which is headed by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, will make the decision "that no politician wants to make", over airport expansion, says Transport Correspondent Richard Westcott. The decision has "conveniently been pushed to after the general election", he says. In the Autumn, Sir Howard will finally say whether he is considering a new super-sized airport in the Thames Estuary.

     
  10.  
    HEATHROW EXPANSION 06:51: BBC Radio 4
    Heathrow

    Detailed proposals for airport expansion in the south east of England will be delivered today to the body set up to select the best location. On Today Transport Correspondent Richard Westcott explains the three competing plans. Two plans will be submitted for the expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick has a rival offer.

     
  11.  
    PFIZER HEARING 07:08: BBC Radio 4

    BBC chief political correspondent, Gary O'Donaghue is on Today. He has been looking at the document submitted to MPs by Pfizer, supporting its bid for AstraZeneca. He says that at the end there are two "chunky paragraphs" that have "massive disclaimers" for all of Pfizer's promises. He thinks MPs will want to know if Pfizer's commitments are real, given those disclaimers.

     
  12.  
    PFIZER HEARING 07:18: BBC Radio 4
    prescription drugs

    "Pfizer's track record gives no confidence they will deliver on assurances they have made," says the chairman of the Business Innovation and Skills Committee, Adrian Bailey, on Today. He says the takeover code could be amended, to make firms live up to promises. Business Secretary Vince Cable will be asked about that at today's hearing. Parliament would unite to ensure swift passage of any change to the takeover code, says Mr Bailey.

     
  13.  
    TUI TRAVEL EARNINGS 07:25:
    tui planes

    TUI Travel, which owns First Choice Holidays and Thomson, has reported first-half results. Sales dipped 4% and it posted a wider loss as the Easter holidays arrived too late to be captured in the results and capacity was cut in France. Winter was made tougher by a drop in sales for Egypt, it said. The firm is "pleased" with summer bookings, though, with 60% of its holidays already sold.

     
  14.  
    EASYJET 07:40: BBC Radio 4
    Carolyn McCall

    Easyjet has increased the number of business travellers by 44% over last four years. The chief executive of Easyjet, Carolyn McCall is on Today. Her airline has taken business travellers from "legacy carriers" like Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways. She says allocated seating "has been the single most popular thing we have ever done with our passengers". As a result business travellers, in particular, have been more willing to try Easyjet.

     
  15.  
    HEATHROW EXPANSION 07:53: BBC Radio 4

    A debate on Today over plans to build another runway in the South-East of England. A more "competitive airports market" would emerge if Gatwick is allowed to build a new runway, says Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick. He also thinks expansion of Heathrow "cannot be delivered", as there will be too much resistance from the local population and politicians.

     
  16.  
    HEATHROW EXPANSION 07:54: BBC Radio 4

    John Holland-Kaye is soon to be chief executive of Heathrow. On Today he says: "We should not waste the huge advantage that Heathrow has." In particular Heathrow's comprehensive long-haul connections. We are already losing out on routes to China that French and Germans are taking advantage of, he says. Heathrow has promised locals "respite from noise" if a new runway is built.

     
  17.  
    PFIZER HEARING 07:58:
    AstraZeneca sign

    Pfizer have put out a statement today. The company is "disappointed" by a "lack of engagement" from AstraZeneca's board over its offer to buy the company. So it has published a presentation for AstraZeneca shareholders to consider. In it Pfizer says about $14bn worth of sales at AstraZeneca are at risk as patents are due to expire. A merger would smooth that decline in sales, says the US firm. There will also be an "efficient tax structure" it said.

     
  18.  
    PADDY POWER 08:07:
    paddy power branch

    Bookmaker Paddy Power says chief executive Patrick Kennedy will step down in April 2015 after 10 years at the company. The board is busy finding a replacement, it said. He has "loved every day" of being CEO, but 10 years is enough, Mr Kennedy said.

     
  19.  
    PFIZER HEARING 08:27: BBC Radio 4

    On Today the President of the Royal Society, Professor Sir Paul Nurse says there is a "question mark" over Pfizer's long term commitment to the UK. He says AstraZeneca has shown commitment to science and wants to interact with research universities and biotech companies. (The Royal Society is a society made up of eminent scientists and promotes scientific research).

     
  20.  
    ED MILIBAND 08:36: BBC Breakfast
    Ed Miliband

    BBC Breakfast interviews opposition leader Ed Miliband. He wants to "stop a race to the bottom in wages and living conditions" which form part of what he calls the "cost of living crisis". This includes stopping recruitment firms from targeting only foreign workers. He says the government has cut tax for the rich, introduced a tax on extra bedrooms in council homes and raised VAT which has hurt families' quality of life.

     
  21.  
    NATIONAL EXPRESS EARNINGS 08:50:
    c2c

    Despite a hard winter in the United States where it runs school buses, National Express said it will meet its forecasts for profit for the year. Since the start of the year, UK sales are up 5% as it gained 4% more passengers. Sales in Morocco rose 18% as it laid on 120 new buses in Tangiers. It's bid for three rail franchises: Essex Thameside, Crossrail and Scotrail.

     
  22.  
    TUI TRAVEL 08:56:
    Peter Long

    On the News Channel, Ben Thompson interviews Peter Long, the chief executive of TUI Travel. It owns First Choice Holidays and Thomson. He says that 50% of sales in the UK are now online. He is "very encouraged" by developments in the economy. Wage increases are starting to run ahead of inflation which bodes well for next winter, Mr Long says.

     
  23.  
    SONY BONUSES 09:09:
    Kazuo Hirai

    Senior executives at Sony will not receive bonuses for the third year in a row. Company president Kazuo Hirai (pictured above) has not received a bonus since becoming chief executive in 2012. It's reported that a typical Japanese executive can expect a bonus to make up 35% to 50% of their annual pay packet. Sony has been struggling and earlier this month warned of a bigger than expected annual loss.

     
  24.  
    GOOGLE RULING 09:13:

    The Court of Justice of the European Union has backed the right of EU citizens to ask for the deletion of links to information about them, if it's prejudicial or no longer relevant.

     
  25.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:18:

    If you want to watch the hearing over the future of AstraZeneca, you can do so here. It is due to start at 09:30. Tony Burke, from the union Unite and Allan Black from the GMB union are scheduled to answer questions first. Pfizer chairman Ian Read is due to appear at 10:00.

     
  26.  
    INDIA ELECTION 09:23: Via Email Simon Atkinson Editor, India Business Report

    We're outside the Bombay Stock Exchange where the election exit polls have sent markets to new highs for a third day running. But with figures just out showing inflation has risen, it's clear that if Narendra Modi takes charge - and even if he gets a strong mandate - there's plenty to tackle.

     
  27.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:29:
    Ian Read

    Our business reporter Mark Broad has tweeted a picture of Pfizer chief executive Ian Read arriving at the House of Commons for today's hearing at the Business Select Committee. He says there was "a good old media scrum". Mr Read looks relaxed so far.

     
  28.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:35:

    The hearing is underway, Tony Burke from the union Unite and Allan Black from the GMB union are up first. They are accompanied by other representatives from their union.

     
  29.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:41:

    Tony Burke (Unite) has met union members to discuss the Pfizer proposals. Shop stewards are opposed to the deal. They are worried about Pfizer's track record - Mr Burke says 65,000 jobs have already been lost globally at Pfizer. Allan Black mentions that many thousand of staff are subcontractors at AstraZeneca including catering, cleaning and information technology. In total he thinks up to 14,000 staff work at AstraZeneca and jobs that support the firm.

     
  30.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:44:
    unionists

    "We'd like something copper-bottomed" in terms of guarantees on jobs, says Allan Black of the GMB union. He doesn't know what sort of guarantees would be enforceable, but the current guarantees that are offered "until circumstances change" aren't good enough, he says.

     
  31.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:50:

    Tony Burke (Unite) says that when Pfizer shut down facilities in Sandwich, the union found it very difficult to consult with the company. He says Pfizer's commitment is "paper thin". Allan Black (GMB) says "lawyers are scratching their heads" about how a legally binding document could be formed to keep Pfizer to its promises.

     
  32.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:52:
    burke

    "The history of Pfizer in takeovers has meant the budget of research and development has been cut back," says Unite's Tony Burke, pictured. Mr Black of the GMB says a 10 year employment commitment from Pfizer would also fall short as research and development phases last up to 25 years.

     
  33.  
    PFIZER HEARING 09:58:

    There's been no response from Pfizer to a letter from the Unite union regarding the AstraZeneca takeover, says Tony Burke. "Our members are finding out what is going on through the media, through the pages of the press," he says. This is making members sceptical about Pfizer as an owner, he says.

     
  34.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:01:

    It's time for the main event. Ian Read, chief executive of Pfizer, is due to answer questions. Let's see if he can persuade sceptical MPs about the merits of his proposed takeover of AstraZeneca.

     
  35.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:07:

    Is Pfizer a praying mantis? A shark that needs feeding? Adrian Bailey the chairman of the Business Select Committee, quotes some disparaging descriptions of the company. Ian Read says his company has "high integrity". He wants "to gain trust". He is "proud of his company and his colleagues".

     
  36.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:09:

    Pfizer has spent $240bn on purchasing competitors and is now worth only $185bn "so you've lost a lot of value on those takeovers," says committee chairman Adrian Bailey. Frank D'Amelio, an executive at the firm says lots of money has been given back to shareholders in dividend. It's also sold some businesses.

     
  37.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:12:
    read

    Ian Read says Pfizer has had limited contact with AstraZeneca, so it is "inappropriate" for them to talk to the unions before more progress is made on a deal.

     
  38.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:18:

    Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South, says Mr Read's evidence so far has been "a lot of sales talk, and very short on facts".

     
  39.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:18:

    MP Robin Walker is asking if the big pharmaceutical model is broken. Smaller companies can be more agile and focused. "Small start-ups can't spend $7bn on research and development," which is what Pfizer spent last year, says Frank D'Amelio, Pfizer finance director.

     
  40.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:25:

    Mr Read won't be drawn on what Pfizer's plan will be if AstraZeneca don't acquiesce to an offer. Mr Binley is having none of it. "You are a businessman with 35 years of experience," he says. "You have a plan."

     
  41.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:32:

    Mr Read has committed to having 20% of researchers in the UK for Pfizer if the deal goes ahead. But what is that in terms of expenditure? He doesn't know. How much of his research and development expenditure is in the US at present, asks MP Ann McKechin? He doesn't know that either. Will the number of researchers in the UK increase, asks committee chairman, Adrian Bailey? Don't know.

     
  42.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:34:

    Mr Read tells committee chairman, Adrian Bailey, that one of Pfizer's reasons for wanting to go ahead with a takeover is so that AstraZeneca "can bring more medicine to patients".

     
  43.  
    SUMMARY

    MPs are questioning Business Secretary Vince Cable about the likely effect of US drug giant Pfizer's proposed bid for AstraZeneca. If it went ahead, it would be the biggest takeover of a UK company.

     
  44.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:40:

    Finance chief Frank De'Amelio tells MP Nadhim Zahawi that "several elements of the UK (tax) environment are attractive to us". But he won't be drawn on the size of the financial benefit to Pfizer. "That is very sensitive information," he adds. Pfizer pays about 27% tax, says Mr D'Amelio, and it would pay "less" with the AstraZeneca deal. How much less? Mr D'Amelio is blaming AstraZeneca's reluctance to talk about a deal on why he can't say what their new rate might be.

     
  45.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:41:
    parliament

    MP Nadhim Zahawi is asking how Pfizer's negotiating power with the National Health Service would be increased. Jonathan Emms, UK managing director at Pfizer, pictured right, says the NHS has plenty of buying power.

     
  46.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:46:

    "I intend to honour those commitments," says Mr Read, after some pointed questioning from MP William Bain on why they should believe the company's promises on jobs. MP Katy Clark asks point blank: if there were no tax advantages from the deal, would they still be pursuing it? "The price would be different," says Mr Read.

     
  47.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:47:
    COMMITTEE

    Mr Read says that "efficiencies" after any takeover would be achieved by "some reduction in jobs". But he can't say how many or where, adding that Pfizer would be looking at the global picture before any such cuts.

     
  48.  
    PFIZER HEARING Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    tweets: "Pfizer CFO: over last three years we have paid £400m in taxes in the UK, including employee taxes"

     
  49.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:53:

    Pfizer chief Mr Read tells chairman Adrian Bailey that one benefit to the UK exchequer would be a rise in profits from a larger, combined operation, and hence a rise in corporation tax take.

     
  50.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:57: Via Twitter Laura Kuenssberg Newsnight Chief Correspondent

    tweets: "Source at Commission told me yday is 'extremely likely' that deal would have to go to EU authorities."

     
  51.  
    PFIZER HEARING 10:57:

    When challenged by committee chairman Mr Bailey as to who would be the biggest winner from an AstraZeneca takeover - "the UK taxpayer or Pfizer shareholders?" - Pfizer's Mr Read says "it will be both".

     
  52.  
    PFIZER HEARING 11:05:

    MP Willie Bain expresses frustration at the inability of Mr Read to say how many people would be employed by AstraZeneca in research and development after any Pfizer takeover. Mr Read says staffing levels will be sufficient to "making it a successful company". He can't say how many because he doesn't know how many research staff AstraZeneca employ today, he says, again referring to the firms' lack of contact.

     
  53.  
    PFIZER HEARING Andy Verity Business reporter

    tweets: "Ian Read: "20% of our global R and D headcount will be in the UK. Has any other company made that commitment?"

     
  54.  
    PFIZER HEARING 11:11: Via Email

    Melanie from Birmingham writes: "As a Chemistry student due to graduate this year, this takeover bid is worrying for all of us looking for jobs after graduation. The market is competitive enough without the takeover cutting more jobs."

     
  55.  
    PFIZER HEARING 11:17:
    coin

    This is getting a bit bizarre. Mr Read has started talking about the special coin he keeps in his pocket. One side says "straight talk" and the other says "own it". Brian Binley MP suggests he flipped the coin this morning and it said "own it" and not "straight talk".

     
  56.  
    PFIZER HEARING 11:23:

    MP Katy Clark is pressing home how other companies have made promises to parliament and not kept them. "Do respect we aren't other companies," says Mr Read, gently tapping his desk to hammer the point home. "You have a legally binding agreement."

     
  57.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:29:

    Now it's the turn of Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca. He makes his pitch, rather than answering the chairman's first question which is: What are the benefits of the Pfizer takeover?

     
  58.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:34: Via Email

    Stephen in Merseyside writes: "AstraZeneca has already lost 70% of its scientists when it closed Alderley Park. Why does the government suddenly care about science jobs now? Having all the jobs and investment exclusively in Cambridge is more worrying for UK science than what flag is outside AstraZeneca's corporate headquarters!"

     
  59.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:40:

    "It's logical to assume" there will be cost savings from a merger of this size, says Mr Soriot. That usually means redundancies, he says. He admits Pfizer hasn't mentioned any job losses yet.

     
  60.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:40:

    "Ultimately the shareholders will have to decide" whether to go through with a deal, says Mr Soriot. He dodges the question of whether long-term shareholders support his management team. He says he is confident he can persuade them of the merits of his strategy.

     
  61.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:45:
    soriot

    "Its a very good financial organisation, very successful financially," Mr Soriot says of Pfizer when pressed on its good points. He quickly moves on to the negatives. Big mergers focus a firm on finances rather than drugs, he says.

     
  62.  
    PFIZER HEARING 11:46: Via Email

    Phil from Lincoln emails: "Having worked with American companies I cannot see any trust coming from Pfizer executives, whose words reflect the 'smoothness' of their business style. The MPs are not being rigorous enough at pressing the points on staffing."

     
  63.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:49:

    Meanwhile, away from the hearing, AstraZenca has reacted to Pfizer's attempt to appeal to AstraZeneca shareholders this morning with a presentation which laid out the merits of the bid. "The Board of AstraZeneca believes Pfizer is making an opportunistic attempt to acquire a transformed AstraZeneca, without reflecting the value of its exciting pipeline", said AstraZeneca. You can read the full reaction here.

     
  64.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 11:52:

    Mr Soriot refuses to speculate on potential job reduction - despite being pressed. All he will say is that typically mergers cause cost reductions, including cuts to research and development at pharmaceutical firms.

     
  65.  
    Via Twitter Louise Cooper, financial markets analyst

    tweets: "Not ironic? AZN was formed from mergers and acquisitions, therefore for AZN to claim it is now "devastating" is ridiculous."

     
  66.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:05: Via Email

    David from Rochdale comments: "I have worked in R&D for 25 years. Pfizer is buying pipeline - and that's it. Their clinical development strategy is to outsource everything."

     
  67.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:08:

    Some of the most exciting developments at AstraZeneca are in cancer treatments developed in the UK, says Mr Soriot. In fact 70% of AstraZeneca's new products have been discovered in UK, and will benefit from UK tax benefits. He says two cancer treatments are very close to the market.

     
  68.  
    Via Twitter Joe Lynam BBC Newsnight

    tweets: "Soriot admits that @AstraZeneca didn't pay any Corp tax in the UK last year due to major R&D and losses carry over"

     
  69.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:14:

    AstraZeneca has 200 partnerships and collaborations in the UK. In research "big is not necessarily beautiful" says Mr Soriot. That is one attraction of Cambridge, where it is planning to build a research centre, which has a mix of academic research and small firms, he says.

     
  70.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:22:
    parliament

    Dr Jane Osbourn is explaining why AstraZeneca, a product itself of many mergers, finds this one objectionable. "Our philosophy is small and medium acquisitions which are science led... There have been redundancies but we have kept the inventors (of drugs)", she says. Her firm, MedImmune, was bought by AstraZeneca, and that purchase was "science-led," she says.

     
  71.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:25: Via Email

    James from Bristol emails: "Nobody is talking about manufacturing. It's alright talking about the Research but we need pharmaceutical manufacturing in this country. At the moment it seems that at best we may discover the product but then send it overseas to manufacture it when we have the skills and experience here."

     
  72.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:28:

    The Committee is taking a break. They will reconvene at 13:00, when we should hear from Business Secretary Vince Cable. In the meantime we will look around for more reaction to this morning's events. Stay with the Business live page.

     
  73.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:35: Via Email

    Ted from Worcester comments: "AstraZeneca is maybe investing in Cambridge, but they have pretty much closed down the Alderley Park site. That, coupled with the fact AZ is 50% Swedish, means they have no more commitment to the UK than Pfizer."

     
  74.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:42:
    Ian Read

    Here's a video of Pfizer chief executive Ian Read talking about his commitment to research and development in the UK. "I think the commitment of 20% of R&D in the UK is an unprecedented commitment."

     
  75.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:47: Via Email

    Mark from Macclesfield emails: "Mr Read of Pfizer says he has not had a look at the AZN books therefore he doesn't know how many people work for AZN globally so cannot commit to job retention in the UK, Sweden or globally. Yet Mr Read has come to buy something he knows nothing about, until he buys it? Pfizer have obviously come for the patents box of AZN and everything else will be surplus to requirements."

     
  76.  
    ASTRAZENECA HEARING 12:52: Via Email

    Phil from Lincoln comments: "There is no point in saying that the Takeovers Commission/High Court can enforce redress after Pfizer break the guarantees as the damage will be done by then with jobs lost and plants closed while the lawyers string out the Court case."

     
  77.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:01:

    Vince Cable takes his seat in the committee room. There's a plea from the chairman for mobile phones to be switched off.

     
  78.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:04:

    Adrian Bailey begins the questioning of the business secretary. "There seems to be some confusion about the government's position on this," he says. "What powers have you got to intervene?" The starting point, Mr Cable says, is that the science base is extremely important to the UK.

     
  79.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:05:

    As to the exact moves the government could make, Mr Cable says he will have to remain "a bit opaque" on some of the questions. "You're very transparent in your opaqueness," says Mr Bailey.

     
  80.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:07:
    Business Secretary Vince Cable

    Vince Cable in the hot seat.

     
  81.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:08:

    Labour MP Katy Clark takes up the questioning. She asks Mr Cable if he's taken advice over the government's legal position with regard to the Pfizer bid. "Would you look to get legislation through to allow you to intervene in the public interest?" she asks. Yes, says Mr Cable, one of the options is to extend the definition of public interest to include science research and development, but, he adds, it would be "tricky".

     
  82.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:13:

    "However sympathetic we may be to having long term shareholders," says Mr Cable, introducing legislation to achieve that could be counter-productive. It could block a "white knight that came along", he says, and it is "difficult to distinguish between long term and short term investors". Memories of Royal Mail, anyone?

     
  83.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:14:

    Conservative MP Brian Binley says the world seems to becoming more protectionist, with the exception of the UK. "What more might you do, to create a more level playing field?" he asks Mr Cable. The business secretary says there already is one.

     
  84.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:15:

    The issue of timing comes up. How long has the government got to deal with this issue, the chairman asks. "We're not being leisurely about it," insists Mr Cable.

     
  85.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:20:

    Could any legislative moves be implemented after the bid is put forward, asks the committee chairman. Yes, says Mr Cable, adding various qualifiers to his answer about there being many options the government could look at.

     
  86.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:23:

    Labour's MP for Sheffield, Paul Blomfield, is up next. He asks whether the business secretary is happy with the assurances made by Pfizer over UK jobs and research. Mr Cable says the promises would have to be "meaningful and binding". How one achieves binding remains up for discussion, he adds.

     
  87.  
    13:25: Via Twitter Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Vince Cable says Pfizer 20% R and D pledge .." a starting point" for negotiation

     
  88.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:26:

    Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative, is up next. As he asks his first question, a phone buzzes in the committee room. So much for the chairman's warning. As for the question, Mr Cable responds that he has asked for assurances that manufacturing, as well as research and development, will be maintained by Pfizer in the UK.

     
  89.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:28: Via Email

    Patrick, from Ardingly, emails: "Whilst I'm all for fighting to retain existing AstraZeneca employees the more salient issue is the quality and competitiveness of British researchers versus their global counterparts in e.g. the US and China - surely this should be aggressively addressed in parallel to the job safety issue, and would mitigate the risk of any alternative, more appealing UK R&D downsizing, off-shoring by Pfizer.

     
  90.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:29:

    Mr Cable refuses to be drawn on the precise legal and financial mechanisms which could make Pfizer's assurances binding. He says he'd "rather not expose" the government's thinking on that "in too much detail".

     
  91.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:34:

    In response to a question from Labour MP William Bain, Mr Cable says countries other than the UK would be impacted by the deal. "Sweden is directly affected, and I've had conversations with my opposite number in Sweden," he says. AstraZeneca, of course, was formed from an Anglo-Swedish merger 15 years ago.

     
  92.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:35:

    Conservative Robin Walker brings the conversation back to that issue of binding obligations. Pfizer seems to thinks its assurances would be legally binding, he says, but does the business secretary feel the same way? Mr Cable is suitably "opaque" in response.

     
  93.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:36:

    Robin Walker asks whether if the Pfizer deal went away, Mr Cable would seek assurance from AstraZeneca (which is after all a global company too) on its commitment to the UK? The business secretary says it would be something he'd think about.

     
  94.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:38: Via Twitter Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: "Vince Cable says he needs to talk to Takeover Panel re possible sanctions it could impose on Pfizer if it breaks pledges"

     
  95.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:40:

    Ann McKechin MP goes back to Mr Cable's earlier comment that the European competition authorities are likely to take an interest in the deal. Would it also be an issue for the new competition and markets authority (CMA), she asks? "In the first instance, this is an issue for the European Commission," he replies, but the CMA could become involved, especially if there was a "public interest test".

     
  96.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:41:

    Mr Cable says he's afraid he has to "draw a veil" over whether the government would talk to the commission about the proposed deal.

     
  97.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:47:

    Tory Brian Binley is back. He asks Mr Cable about the accusation that Pfizer intends to use a takeover of AstraZeneca as a way of avoiding US taxes. "Pfizer made it clear that what they were interested in was something called inversion," says Mr Cable. This means, he continues, that the income stream from an acquisition wont be taxed as heavily as if the company was to repatriate its offshore money back to the US. A business lesson from the business secretary.

     
  98.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:48:

    Mr Binley, who is a pen clicker, asks about the climate of uncertainty around the potential bid, which is worrying for AstraZeneca workers. He wants to know if the government will get a move on. "The sooner we have clarity the better," says Mr Cable. "But there are legal processes here, not all under British control," and it may take time.

     
  99.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:49:

    The chairman says there will be just a few more questions.

     
  100.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:49: Via Email

    David, from Macclesfield, emails: All Mr Read had to do was to google the no of employees at AZ - approx 51,700 employed worldwide with 11,000 in research - it's very difficult to believe that he doesn't know the numbers.

     
  101.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:52:

    Where the country has invested an enormous amount of money, Mr Bailey asks, is there "a case for strengthening government regulation to deal with situations where the investment is at risk?" He clarifies he means reforming the takeover code. "The case against intervention was made very strongly by the previous government," says Mr Cable. But, "I have an open mind on that," he says.

     
  102.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:52:

    Talking of "public interest tests", Mr Cable's evidence is hardly making a flutter on Twitter.

     
  103.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:54:

    Mr Cable is asked for his personal view on the whole issue. Declining to answer, he replies, with a smile: "In the future when I'm free of these responsibilities you can hear my personal view."

     
  104.  
    CABLE HEARING 13:55:

    And that's it from the Business Select Committee. You can read the full story of today's proceedings here.

     
  105.  
    13:55: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    And that's it from Business Live for today too. See you at 06:00 tomorrow.

     

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