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Jobs at risk in AstraZeneca tie-up: Pfizer

LONDON--The head of U.S. drugs giant Pfizer admitted Tuesday that jobs could be lost if it succeeds in taking over British competitor AstraZeneca in a 63-billion pound deal (US$106 billion, 77 billion euros).

Chief executive Ian Read also told a British parliamentary committee that the combined total of US$12 billion currently spent by the two pharmaceuticals firms on research and development would fall.

AstraZeneca's chief executive meanwhile warned the same committee that a takeover could delay the development of new drugs.

Politicians and unions have expressed concern that a tie-up would lead to job cuts and damage Britain's position as a research and development hub.

Pressed repeatedly on what savings Viagra maker Pfizer was planning to make in the event of a tie-up, Read admitted “there will be some job cuts somewhere.”

“I'm not sitting here saying that we can become more efficient without some reduction in jobs. We'll be more efficient by some reduction in jobs. What I can't tell you is how much or how many or where,” he told the committee.

AstraZeneca employs 6,700 people in Britain.

In occasionally testy exchanges, the Pfizer boss rebuffed criticism from lawmakers that the firm was a ruthless cost-cutter and insisted it had acted with “integrity” in past takeovers.

Scottish-born Read said he was “very proud” of his 35-year career at Pfizer and described it as a “company of high integrity focused on patients and delivering drugs to patients.”

Paul Nurse, president of the scientific body the Royal Society, has written to the committee to express his concerns that Pfizer's commitments are vague and that a five-year pledge on research and jobs is insufficient.

Pfizer Bid 'opportunistic'

The head of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, said a takeover by Pfizer could delay the production of life-saving medicines.

Soriot warned that the mega-merger would prove a distraction from its scientific priorities.

“What will we tell the person whose father died from lung cancer because one of our medicines was delayed because our companies were involved in saving taxes or saving costs?” he told the committee.

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