May 13th, 2014

BIS Committee: Like Watching Monkeys Play With an Abacus

The £60bn acquisition – or as Labour prefers it, “The asset-stripping, job-crushing, tax-scamming, profit-driven destruction of a noble British institution, Predator devouring Astraphilia” – came to Parliament.

At one desk, the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world working on 25-year timescales, developing miracle drugs at the cost of billions of dollars each. Round the horseshoe, Members of the Business Committee.

It was like watching monkeys play with an abacus.

Brian Binley said to the CEO of Pfizer things like, “I’m a businessman,” and “I’m a businessman too,” and “We’re both businessmen.”

Binley chairs a telemarketing company in Wellingborough.

Chairman Adrian Bailey’s qualifications are detailed below.

Perhaps as some sort of anger management therapy, committee members ventilated their feelings – “Your assurances aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on/why should we believe a word you say?/your blind belief in yourself/yes or no, answer the question yes or no.”

No wonder Kraft CEO refused to present herself to such chimps.

The Left on the committee believe in the sanctity of scientists and that the jobs of scientists deserve special reverence. The Right have a special reverence for the votes an unpopular takeover might cost them in a sentimental public. That at least is rational.

None of the MPs were able or willing to admit they had no idea how many scientists it took to make a molecule, or what it should cost, or what it might cost five years out, or why company directors work for profit.

Nor was there any acknowledgement that the vast cost of developing and bringing a drug to market (between $1bn and $5bn) is largely a regulatory cost imposed by cousin chimps in other legislative zoos round the world

The offer, or proposition that Pfizer’s Australian CEO makes is this – the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on a British company and will give a legally-binding spending promise (he insists it’s legally-binding, with unlimited penalties in the case of default) along with an unprecedented five-year guarantee to base a fifth of its R and D in Britain.

He also said that he wasn’t overly concerned with the legalisms because he was a man of honour and had given his word. The board had given their word. No need for guarantees when men of honour were in control.

That is, infallibly, the remark of a rogue, but the MPs had behaved so badly that rogue or not, he got clean away with it.


  1. 1
    Nigel Farrago says:

    But a UK company trying to take over a US one in the same way would be prevented by US law at the first hurdle. Why the hell should we treat their firms in a different way to that in which they treat ours? British drugs for British scientists!

  2. 2
    monkey playing with an abacus says:

    Don’t compare me with those morons.

  3. 3
    táxpáyér says:

    UKIP reported the green party engaging in electoral fraud and the dialysismush make it sound like a joke?

    Time for UKIP to do some turnabout.

    Pictures from Turkey with “welcome your new neighbours!”, Only Labour/Dave-Party/Lib-Dums are committed to allowing 70 million turks to settle here!

  4. 4
    Welshracer says:

    Willie Bain got so het up I thought the buttons on his shirt were going to pop off at one point.

    You could tell Bain has never run a business though, all he is good at is sounding like he knows what he is talking about…….. alas

  5. 5
    táxpáyér says:

    Shareholders own the company not governments.

  6. 6
    Nigel Farrago says:

    Tell that to the Yanquis!

  7. 7
    Old Geezer says:

    Guido, perhaps you could enlighten us. Was it, or was it not, the change in the law made by the last Labour government, that means that the present government can not intervene to stop the takeover of Astra Zenica,

  8. 8
    jgm2 says:

    Labour believe in the sanctity of scientists?

    Labour fucking well hate scientists. Rational, educated, numerate people? Labour shit themselves in the presence of such people. Labour is the party of social theory and ideologists.

    I’d be amazed if a single Labour cabinet minister has a science degree. It wouldn’t surprise me if not a single Labour MP had a science degree.

    Labour MPs are utter fucking plankton. Even the ‘clever’ ones, with their Oxford PPEs, aren’t scientists.

    Labour are opposed to progress and science. They are the party of the loom-smasher. Arrr, that ‘science’ will do us all out of ‘our’ jobs. The Tories might be the name of the Conservative Party but when it comes to conservatism they can’t hold a candle to the Labour Luddites.

  9. 9
    Grandstanding politicians getting involved in something that doesn't concern them says:

    Most members of select committees couldn’t find their own arse with both hands, this sketch says the same but far more eloquently and with more detail.

  10. 10
    jgm2 says:

    Aye. After the BP fit-up and cash-raid when a US company fucked up in the Gulf of Mexico you’d be fucking mad to do business in the US. Or let them anywhere near your business. Look at Cadburys.

  11. 11
    The Growler says:

    I have not heard the question session but the research places are in Con constituencies, and if they should close, let us say for economic reasons there are certain Con constituencies who might not be too happy. The Yanks in previous takeovers have not had a good record in the past for keeping operation in the UK, that is the crux of the problem.

  12. 12
    Margaret Hodge says:

    Makes us look like we know what we are doing shouting at business people.

  13. 13
    A Chinaman says:

    PLC Drug Companies are nothing without the NHS.

    Always arranging Doctor and Nurses Parties and Jollies.

    I wonder why?

  14. 14
    Dr Dàvid Kēlly says:

    They didn’t like me much.

  15. 15
    Gary Barlow says:

    There are only two things certain in life…

    HMRC and Nurses

  16. 16
    The Growler says:

    The little darlings must be a little smelly if they cannot wipe their backsides because they can not find it.

  17. 17
    Bloomers in rain-soaked Bongo Bongo Land says:

  18. 18
    BrindleFlyer says:

    These promises are worth nothing. Kraft made promises – broken in months – I recall Mandelson saying he had cast iron guarantees – I guess they were guarantees that the money would be paid into his bank account okay.

  19. 19
    Dave Cameron says:

    As I have shown, cast iron promises are worth fuck all. If I win in 2015 I will start work on trashing copper bottomed ones.

  20. 20
    táxpáyér says:

    Which is partly the reason why the “recovery” hasn’t happened there.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Barrenness Trashcan of Private Plane, (she’s the one who’s saved Ukraine) says:

    on a rather more important issue, it is clear beyond doubt that Mr Pootn headed my words and warnings and has acted promptly and effectively to move his people and his designs from EUSSR Territory.

    I shall now turn my attention to the African trouble spots, via, I may add, any in the Middle East.

    Obviously I will not go there in person. Rather, wave bits of paper and mouth platitudes.

  23. 23
    Fawke Handles says:

    True, if A British company like GSK were to attempt to take over Pfizer the US might block it, but in what way is AstraZeneca a British company? Most of the staff, shareholders and management are non-British.

  24. 24
    Bosun Higgs says:

    We need not be too embarrassed. This guy from Pfizer is used to dealing with American politicians. They may have perfect teeth and self-inflating hair, but they have the limited, single-minded intelligence of a pigeon looking for something edible.

  25. 25
    Bosun Higgs says:

    Cadburys is definitely still there and definitely still making chocolate at Bournville.

  26. 26
    Wee Willie Wee says:

    I can run a part-tee, I am not a little tosser, I can give Brillo as good as I get.

    Is that ok Gordy? That’ll teach those sass enacts.

    Get tae fuk englanders.

  27. 27
    British Citizen says:

    Good. The European Parliament is a meaningless body acting as a fig leaf to the corrput fascists in charge of the bureaurcracy. Anyone who goes along with its bullshit and pretends it is democratic is a collaborator.

  28. 28
    Bosun Higgs says:

    Chimps are not monkeys.

  29. 29
    maximus Cliffordux says:

    Since Kraft took over Cadburys I’ve noticed their product range has expanded immensely.
    Not surprising,cover anything in Cadbury’s chocolate and people (particularly women) will flock to buy and eat it.
    Shame Cadbury don’t make cock rings.

  30. 30
    Genghiz the kahn says:

    Successful takeovers are as rare as hen’s teeth. How does Pfizer intend to succeed when most have failed?

    The Italians and Americans must be wondering about how FIAT/Chrylser intends to arrange its taxes with a shoestring London HQ operation out of the reach of Italian or US taxes with a Dutch share listing.

    “Site boss Dr Ruth McKernan revealed that she knew as early as November that the site was likely to shut, and stopped recruiting.

    But the company failed to tell David Cameron when staff met him before Christmas. Instead the Prime Minister was told in January of the plans to shut the site.”


  31. 31
    Bosun Higgs says:

    I’m sure I saw Adrian Bailey in our town centre the other day, pushing two supermarket trolleys full of bulging bin bags. He said “Fargle achhhh the shits they are, graaaah!”

  32. 32
    EU Commissioner says says:

    We are heavy hitting backbenchers and are greatly respected and very relevant.

  33. 33
    Penfold says:

    Astra Zeneca has old UK and Swedish pharma coy’s as constituents, but it is a truly global player and globally owned.
    As for Pfizer, i seem to recollect that they closed their UK R&D op in the UK some years ago.
    As for the takeover, Parliament will not have the last word, that will be in the purview of the Brussels mafia.

  34. 34
    Penfold says:

    At least they are not engaging and voting for EU policies.
    But a handful of votes will not stop the EU juggernaut.

  35. 35
    give £3/month for ummm...Cheers easy... says:

    Yeah but I don’t think Keynsham is…

  36. 36
    President Cheery. B. Mahmood says:

    In the world there are many plants, and many plants yet to be discovered, that contain compounds which are beneficial to human health but the pharmaceutical industry does little research there because they can’t patent a plant.

  37. 37
    SpAd says:

    Yep, the Enterprise Act 2002.

    Quintessential Labour legislation. Under pretext of “depoliticising” the takeover process, it removes Trade & Industry Secretary from the equation. (Actual purpose – arse covered and absolved of all responsibility, despite ministerial job title)

    Final decision on takeover/merger devolved to ‘independent’ quango filled with placemen who – even if everything goes tits up (jobs lost, factories closed etc) – are rewarded with seat on the boards of other quangos after stepping down.

  38. 38
    stun () says:

    Graham Stringer (Chemistry). Does a sterling job on one of the climate change committees as he doesn’t seem to believe in the bollocks.

  39. 39
    frank says:

    Nope. They have the BBC to lick it clean for them. At your expense.

  40. 40
    NE Frontiersman says:

    ‘the vast cost of developing and bringing a drug to market (between $1bn and $5bn) is largely a regulatory cost ..’

    That’s right, Simon: boring old red tape such as trying to find out whether they kill people, and bribing members of the licensing panel to gloss over nasties that the testing flagged up – which is precisely how SSRIS were approved.
    In case you don’t know, they can make people suicidal without prior warning.

    Your icon Mrs T allowed drug companies to do their own testing, which meant they could cherry-pick whichever results seemed to show that their new product actually did more than a placebo.

    In case you also don’t know, the drug companies spend more on marketing than research. That’s golfing holidays – sorry, conferences – in Florida for doctors and MPs.

    I enjoy your caustic take on the political process, but you showed your fangs there.

  41. 41
    thostids says:

    Because we Brits surrendered our ability to say anything about this and any other case to Europe. Even the Sky News correspondent stated we could do nothing.

  42. 42
    thostids says:

    They are “Totalitarians” not fascists. As the former, they can do what they want and you do it, At least The Fascists made really good ice-cream and brought Pizza to this Country. Now if you mean the Fascists” that the commie Hope not Hate and United Against Fascism, then you’re just using a euphemism for Nazis who, we know, don’t exist and if you are stupid enough to call someone a “Nazi” they’ll sue the arse off you.
    In fear of stating the bleeding obvious, Totalitarians don’t give a bugger for ideology, they just exercise power and have a bad habit of murdering large numbers of people who disagree with them. The Barroso’s and Van Rumpuy’s of this world just bankrupt your Country.

  43. 43
    John Bellingham says:

    But Chukka Umanna says that the British Government CAN and MUST stop it by applying a non-existent National Interest test. He has even written to the Prime Minister to tell him, despite being told by Nigel Farage that he is pig-ignorant to think so. He is after all Britain’s Osama (I think), so he must be right.

  44. 44
    John Bellingham says:

    Thalidomide went down well.

  45. 45
    Fishy says:

    Yeah. I bet Horace Batchelor doesn’t make mushy peas there any more

  46. 46
    A Concerned Chimp says:

    Don’t forget the main reason everyone should be against this takeover; monopoly is a dirty word, but a merger of this scale will do nothing except increase the already formidable potential for treating the NHS as a cash cow.

  47. 47
    constituency trainbound says:

    The day M and As don’t create some type of fallout it’ll be a first … the very reasoning leads to cutting in order to maximise profits and remove duplication.

    Whilst the pfizer team were quite opaque in commitment terms thats hardly a surprise given they are conducting a takeover manoeuve .. it would be ridiculous to expect that they would reveal their strategy at this stage.

    It seems to me that pfizer are well served by gaining control of astrazeneca …market share and access to the top areas of research in cambridge.

    Quite what astrazeneca can gain from a takeover is the only question to answer and given their position currently having a growing pipeline of potentials coming to market clearly pfizer want the added value at old
    cost … not over realistic.

  48. 48
    Osama bin Umanna says:

    I am uniquely qualified to comment by virtue of my familiarity with saline solution.

  49. 49
    broderick crawford says:

    What about golden hellos /Platinum goodbyes ….

    …. or are they off limits ?

  50. 50
    A Wise Chinaman says:

    Not for many years. Maximum cost per head for a drug company sponsored meal for an independent lecture is around £6, = a sandwich, plus drink & crisps from M&S. Wow.

  51. 51
    broderick crawford says:

    Ahh yes Keynsham … happy childhood recollections of late Fifties.

    Listening covertly under the sheets to Radio Luxembourg the only station then with adverts .

    One from Horace Bachelor who as I recall could guarantee you would win Littlewoods football pools . Address in Keynsham Bristol .

    Happy days … top wage ten pound a week …houses costing around £1500 …. first dividend on Littlewoods £75,000…..which would mean you would NEVER have to work again ….. unless of course you survived to the inflation of the Seventies !

  52. 52
    broderick crawford says:

    But Dougie Brillo IS ( like you ) SCOTTISH !

  53. 53
    Dougie says:

    Just not true. Many UK companies have taken over US companies. E.g. Rolls Royce and Allison, Tesco and Fresh Foods. It is true that Congress is more likely to intervene than the UK Gov’t but such interference is not necessarily in the national interest.

  54. 54
    Dougie says:

    Why is AZ being presented as the “plucky little Britisher” fighting of the might of the beastly American invader? AZ is only half-British by descent and, in reality is a huge multi-national just like Pfizer. Nearly 90% of AZ employees are outside the UK, as are most of its shareholders.

    Neither does AZ have clean hands when it comes to jobs.
    550 good science jobs cut in Cheshire last year. Basically, neither Pfizer nor AZ care anything about the UK national interest so best we get as much tax out of them as we can.

  55. 55
    Americanus Patenticus says:

    The American patent office will patent any fucking thing a big yankee corporation asks them to.

  56. 56
    Jethro says:

    … but, to atone for this (?), Labour always fall for the snake-oil salesman, and carry everything forward in the light of “the white heat of the Technological Revolution” (‘I don’t understand it, but it sounds like mega, chaps, like, mega…’): Concorde… sinking Torrey Canyon.
    Just remember POLITICIANS ARE PARASITES: unwanted, undesired, and can cost us our lives.
    Ask youselves ‘Will they leave us better off?’
    ‘Will they leave themselves better off?’
    YEAAY! (but don’t print that.)

  57. 57
    ned ludd says:

    Oy! Do you fekin mind? I’m not Labour. I work fer a livin.

  58. 58
    Bob says:

    Another superb column from Simon Carr, my favourite political sketch writer. Please keep up the good work.

  59. 59
    The Late Lord Deedes says:

    Yes you’re right that these knee jerk committees and their grandstanding protagonists are tiresome, and accomplish next to sod all because its all arranged at the last minute. But it seems a bit daft to criticise the committee members for being neither multinational CEOs nor molecular biochemists. That’s exactly like the bloody teachers who say that Gove has no right to make education policy because he’s never worked in a school. Shurely, its only because they’re MPs that they have the clout to get these people in front of them at the drop of a hat in the first place. And MPs will find it tricky to be a CEO or a leading biochemist or anyone else who might be useful on a select committee while people like G. Fawkes and minions moan about them having second jobs and prattle on much a portion of chips costs in the Terrace Cafeteria. what what?

  60. 60
    Anonymous says:

    Pharmaceuticals a leading cause of death

  61. 61
    Anonymous says:

    Pharmaceuticals THE leading cause of death

  62. 62
  63. 63
    Ernest Saunders says:

    Good point, Graham.

  64. 64
    David Axlerod says:

    I suggested that International Rescue patent leather in Newark – Mr Milibanana said it would be too much of a Boyden.

  65. 65
    Boots the Chemist says:

    You really have to wonder how a company working on a “25 year plan” could get it so wrong. Pfizer seems to be queueing up patents to expire. Nobody, but nobody, should mention Enron. Nobody, but absolutely nobody, should mention Former Atlantic Bridge researcher – Gabby Bertin – whose funding by Pfizer would have her on SPADWatch quicker than a SPAD on Speed. Guido is not really that interested – so long as he can slag some lefties he is happy. Poor lamb. If he were to spend longer at the table amiably chatting, he could have popped a few Neurontin and sniggered.

    Perhaps a little trip to Delaware would make it clearer for the increasingly wrongfooted buffoon.

    Which is either quite rude about Guido or a really pointed remark about SPADs again. “The next big scandal will be about lobbyists” to paraphrase everybody’s mate Dave. Of course: get the takeover out the way before November and it will not blow up in anybody’s face come April…

  66. 66
    disgusted of tunbridge wells says:

    How long before Pfizer, if successful, moved its head-office to a tax haven, like Starbucks, Amazon etc etc? How are the USA authorities viewing the situation?

  67. 67
    An incredibly well-informed scientist /politician/journalist says:

    So what? This is a US company trying to get away from that stupid US protectionism and base itself in our beautiful, green and pleasant land. Open the doors for them, I say.

  68. 68
    Just So says:

    Quite right

  69. 69

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