AstraZeneca shares fell after its spurned American suitor Pfizer walked away from a £69.4bn takeover attempt.
Pfizer conceded defeat shortly before a deadline on Monday afternoon to turn its offer into a formal bid. The New York-based Viagra maker made a "take it or leave it" offer of £55 a share just over a week ago which, like its previous three offers, was promptly rejected by AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca's shares lost 2.3% to £42.31 in early trading. Financial markets were closed for a public holiday in the UK and the US on Monday.
The firm's chief executive Pascal Soriot, who has been in the job for 18 months, is now under huge pressure to deliver on the drug pipeline and prove that AstraZeneca can thrive as an independent company. Some major shareholders, led by the world's largest asset management group BlackRock, which is AstraZeneca's biggest investor and Pfizer's second-biggest, want the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker to restart talks as soon as takeover rules allow.
The company can invite Pfizer back to the table in three months' time – late August – while Pfizer could return with a new, unsolicited offer in six months' time. AstraZeneca's board led by chairman Leif Johansson had indicated that it would consider an offer of £58.85 a share, and is thought to have been surprised when Pfizer made a "final" offer of £55 a share on 18 May. But Pfizer thought this was high enough to tempt shareholders and spur them into pressuring the AstraZeneca board into talks.
Soriot, flanked by his top scientists – chief medical officer Briggs Morrison, the head of MedImmune and biologics research, Bahija Jallal, and the head of innovative medicines, Mene Pangalos – will fly to Chicago later this week to showcase AstraZeneca's new cancer medicines at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference, which starts on Friday. The highlights will be clinical data on two new lung cancer treatments, AZD9291 and MEDI4736, which will be presented on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.