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AstraZeneca to stay independent, 'strong'

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

LONDON — AstraZeneca on Tuesday outlined plans to make sales jump during the next decade, an effort to persuade shareholders the drugmaker can do well as an independent company rather than get bought out by rival Pfizer.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said investors would share the benefits of a “strong and consistent revenue growth” in which annual sales would rise to more than $45 billion by 2023 from $25.7 billion last year.

The Britain-based company on Friday spurned Pfizer's third acquisition proposal, this time for about $106 billion. AstraZeneca PLC, the No. 8 drugmaker, called that inadequate and said the potentially lucrative “pipeline” of new drugs it is developing would be disrupted by a takeover.

AstraZeneca's revenues last year fell 6 percent, but the company said Tuesday that under its new management and strategy, it is now “repositioned for a return to growth.”

“AstraZeneca is completing its transformation and now has the right size, focus and team to deliver on one of the most exciting pipelines in the pharmaceutical industry,” Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said. “We are continuing to create significant value for shareholders from our independent strategy.”

Pfizer said last week it was considering its options. If the deal succeeds, it would be the biggest takeover in British corporate history. Many politicians fear it could mean big job cuts and a loss of stature in the country's science sector.

On Tuesday, Business Secretary Vince Cable told lawmakers he will not rule out intervening in any formal bid by Pfizer to buy AstraZeneca, although he stressed that the shareholders of both companies make the ultimate decision.

“We see the future of the U.K. as a knowledge economy, not as a tax haven,” he said, referring to concerns that Pfizer could benefit from tax advantages should it acquire AstraZeneca.

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