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Pfizer Approached AstraZeneca in $101 Billion Bid, Times Says

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc. approached AstraZeneca Plc about acquiring the U.K. drugmaker in a deal that would value the company at more than 60 billion pounds ($101 billion), according to a media report.

The talks were reported by the London-based Sunday Times, citing bankers and industry sources it did not name. The conversations were described by the paper as informal and no longer continuing.

“As a normal course of business, we continually explore opportunities to enhance shareholder value,” Joan Campion, a spokeswoman for New York-based Pfizer, said in an e-mail. “We don’t comment on market speculation or rumors.”

Esra Erkal-Paler, a spokeswoman for London-based AstraZeneca, declined to comment.

In the last three years, Pfizer has revamped its business, shuttering some research projects and emphasizing others. It also divided into three main units: two new-drugs businesses, and one one focused on older products. Pfizer’s stock has gained 34 percent in the last two years.

AstraZeneca’s shares are up 32 percent over that period, while sales have fallen from $33.6 billion in 2011 to $25.7 billion last year, with further losses projected by some analysts as drugs lose patent protection.

Mega-Mergers

A merger of this reported size would top Pfizer’s 2000 purchase of Warner-Lambert Co. for $87 billion, the industry’s largest deal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Pfizer has been at the center of the biggest drugmaker mega-mergers, making up three of the 10 deals worth more than $30 billion in the last two decades.

AstraZeneca rose 0.6 percent to close at 3,781.50 pence on April 17, giving the company a market value of 47.7 billion pounds. The U.K. stock market was closed for a holiday on April 18.

Since taking over in 2010, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Ian Read’s answers to whether or not he’d pursue a mega-merger such as a deal with AstraZeneca have shifted slightly.

On a January conference call in 2012 he said, “I’m very disinclined to be looking at any possibility of another mega- acquisition. You never say never, but we have all of the science we need.”

In July 2013, when Read was asked on another conference call about the size of deals he might pursue, he replied: “We’ll look at any type of acquisition -- never say never to a larger acquisition that made sense.”

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