Pfizer admits defeat on AstraZeneca bid

US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer has called off its multi-billion pound bid to take over British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca. The decision came after AstraZeneca's board declined an offer worth almost £70bn.

View all 58 updates ›

The govt's options over AstraZeneca takeover bid

What you get from inside government tonight is recognition that the law, as it stands, isn't much use. They would be hard put to block the bid on those grounds.

So, what they're talking about, or at least hinting at, is the idea of introducing new legislation. That would be a big step. It would be quite a dramatic step. It would be quite a tricky step, in terms of possibly discouraging future inward investment into the country by other big countries.

US drugs giant Pfizer has confirmed details of a multi-billion pound takeover approach for the UK's AstraZeneca. Credit: JESSICA GOW / TT/TT News Agency/Press Association Images

So, I think we need to take that, which is the clear hint from government tonight, with a pretty big pinch of salt. I suspect it's largely a negotiating tactic. Is it possible they could do it? Yes. Is it likely? No.

If you were the PR company advising Pfizer tonight, you would say 'listen, it's in the news, there's an election, play along, you might have to make some promises, you might even have to keep them but there's not much doubt the deal will go through in the end.'

I think the principle reason for that is that politicians ultimately don't like very much getting involved in business. It can be long, it can be messy and it can be very difficult in deed.

Of course, the government says Ed Miliband is playing politics, perhaps he is, perhaps he isn't. But Mr Miliband and Labour clearly feel there is sense that people are uneasy about capitalism. So expect him to worry more about this.

More on this story