Words, words, and overheated words fly as U.K. officials keep grilling Pfizer

The war of words over the proposed Pfizer-AstraZeneca merger was already hot. Now, it's almost boiling. And as usual when the heat is on, some people can't handle it. They boil over. Here's what people are hearing:

  • One Labour party member of Parliament called Pfizer ($PFE) folks "rapists" in a tweet. A flurry of "we're offended" tweets followed. The MP, Austin Mitchell, has a foot-in-mouth history; now, some members of his own party are calling for his suspension. Report

  • Tuesday, AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot said a Pfizer buyout would distract his troops from doing their jobs--and could disrupt development so much that people would die for lack of an AZ cancer-drug breakthrough. Wednesday, Pfizer chief Ian Read scoffed back: If anything, Pfizer would bring those drugs to market sooner. Deaths averted. Report

  • With accusations of broken Pfizer promises made in Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., the wildlife metaphors are flying: Pfizer is a blood-sucking praying mantis; Pfizer is a shark that needs feeding. "[I]s this a leopard that has changed its spots?" a Parliamentary committee chair asked Read during a Tuesday hearing. The answer, per Read? No need, because Pfizer has kept its promises. Report

  • Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who's been an outspoken critic of the merger from the get-go, called Pfizer's promises on jobs and R&D "worthless." Some British officials are demanding guarantees lasting 10 years--or more. "A commitment of at least 10 years is required," a top British scientist, Paul Nurse, wrote in a letter to Parliament's science committee, which held its own hearings today. Report

  • One of the few still speaking in business jargon is Read, who used words like "opportunity" and "complementary" and "outcomes." The clause "I suspect" popped up repeatedly: "I suspect there will less scientists" after the merger; "I suspect the combined research budget will go down." But Pfizer won't "under-invest" in the post-merger business, he said. Pfizer would "ringfence any important products" of AstraZeneca's to keep them moving forward. And then there's the all-purpose "no way of knowing" what he might find when and if he gets to AstraZeneca's books. As for job numbers? "I can't tell today," he said. Report | Report (sub. req.)

  • Another sober analysis? The Wall Street Journal's look at AstraZeneca's future prospects versus the up-front, in-hand return Pfizer is offering. If AZ rebuffs Pfizer, then shareholders should demand accountability for current management, the WSJ says. Tie exec pay to the company's latest long-term estimates, for instance. Report (sub. req.)

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