It has lost consciousness and barely has a pulse, but US drug giant Pfizer's pounds 69bn bid for AstraZeneca is technically still alive until 5pm tomorrow, when the UK's takeover regulator will sign the death certificate unless AstraZeneca performs an embarrassing volte-face and accepts the pounds 55-a-share offer it has already rejected.
Under Takeover Panel rules, Pfizer has four weeks from first tabling a takeover proposal to "put up or shut up" - make a firm bid or walk away for six months. The four-week deadline expires on Monday.
Leif Johansson, AstraZeneca's Swedish chairman, started hammering the nails into the deal's coffin last week when he released a statement to make it "absolutely clear" that it was legally impossible for Pfizer to increase its "final" pounds 55-a-share offer, which AstraZeneca's board has categorically rejected.
But despite Johansson's statement, Pfizer has continued to try to provoke revolt among AstraZeneca shareholders - with some success.
Most prominently, Axa Investment Managers has called on the company to put the pounds 55-a-share offer to investors. "Many shareholders - but not necessarily all - will find this an attractive offer," said Jim Stride, the head of UK equities at Axa Investment Managers.
Stride is right: some investors - include Schroders and Jupiter Fund Management - do regard pounds 55 as a good deal, but a much greater proportion of shareholders want more money.
These investors are split into two camps. The first - which includes Fidelity, Sweden'sInvestor AB, M&G, Threadneedle and well-known fund manager Neil Woodford - have publicly backed AstraZeneca's management in rejecting the bid.
Woodford, who controls a pounds 350m stake in AstraZeneca on behalf of wealth managers St James's Place, applauded the board for its "resolute resistance" to Pfizer's overtures. "I remain convinced that an independent AstraZeneca will achieve far better returns for its shareholders than the combination of cash and Pfizer paper would have delivered," he said. "The long-term future for AstraZeneca looks very bright indeed."
The second camp is perhaps more interesting. While it hasn't spoken out publicly, this group, which includes AstraZeneca's biggest investor, BlackRock, has been lobbying hard behind the scenes for a third option.
These shareholders agree with AstraZeneca's management that pounds 55 isn't enough, but they are angry at the company for failing to get around the table and extract a higher price. They want AstraZeneca to start fresh talks with Pfizer: and if they get their way fresh negotiations could start in three months, rather than the minimum six-month period Pfizer must leave if not invited to re-approach.
A source close to Pfizer said it was optimistic there was enough disquiet among shareholders to force AstraZeneca to restart talks. "We're not able to re-approach for six months, but with sufficient shareholder pressure, AstraZeneca could re-initiate," the source said.
BlackRock is important because as well as being AstraZeneca's biggest investor, with an 8% stake, it is also one of the biggest shareholders in Pfizer.
The US pharma company, which discovered Viagra at its now-scaled-down laboratories in Kent, appears willing to raise its bid. It has already increased its offer four times since it first went to AstraZeneca in January, lifting the price from pounds 46.61. Johansson has said the board would consider an offer at pounds 58.85 a share.
The bookmaker Ladbrokes is offering odds of 3/1 for the takeover to be completed before Monday, and 5/4 for a deal to happen in a future offer period.
Restarting talks would prove embarrassing to Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, who has ferociously defended the company from a takeover that could have seen him collect a personal windfall of up to pounds 31m.
Soriot's defence extended to an emotive warning to MPs that disruption caused by what would be the biggest-ever foreign takeover of a British firm could end up costing the lives of cancer patients. "Any distractions on work we are doing now could run the risk of delaying our drugs pipeline," he said.
"What will we tell the person whose father died from lung cancer because one of our medicines was delayed - and essentially was delayed because in the meantime our two companies were involved in saving tax and saving costs?"
The company's latest drugs, including the cancer immunology drug MEDI4736, which could be a pounds 3.9bn moneyspinner, will be unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago next weekend.
The development of the drug - a human monoclonal antibody which helps the body's own defences target cancer cells - is so important to AstraZeneca that Soriot will fly to Chicago to oversee the presentation.
However, sources close to him say the French-Australian expects to spend as much time at the conference fending off shareholders keen to talk about the deal as he will talking to doctors.
AstraZeneca's chief executive, Pascal Soriot, personally committed himself to fending off Pfizer, with the support of many, but not all, investors. Photograph by Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA