Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Pfizer yet to land knockout blow on Astra

By Neil Unmack 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Pfizer’s courtship of AstraZeneca looks like a hate-hate relationship. In January, UK pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca viewed its U.S. larger rival’s proposal of 46.61 pounds a share as too low on cash, too risky, and too cheap to even talk about. Pfizer’s latest proposal, an attempt to get Astra to begin friendly talks, hasn’t moved the needle much.

The U.S. company is now offering 50 pounds per share, 32 percent of which is in cash. Pfizer needs to find the right mix of cash and shares that allows it to preserve the tax benefits of relocating to the UK - which would require a minimum of 20 percent UK ownership of the combined group - whilst not diluting itself too heavily with the share component of the bid. The latest proposal would leave the UK ownership at 27 percent of the combined company, so there’s still room to up the cash.

The new price represents a mere 7 percent increase on the original offer – not a significant bump. True, it values Astra at a whopping 20 times forward earnings estimates, double the multiple it traded at a year ago. Yet it looks cheap to those shareholders who see Astra’s turnaround as well advanced, and its potential cancer immunotherapy pipeline as a blockbuster in waiting. Citigroup estimates that Astra could be worth 49 pounds per share on a standalone basis. Pfizer’s share of the synergies and tax benefits could be worth nearly 12 pounds a share, according to Berenberg. Some investors, who piled into the stock for its high income, will see 50 pounds as an unexpected windfall. But others will be antagonised. Astra’s board seems to be listening to them, and has rejected the offer.

from Breakingviews:

Astra has small tactical advantage over Pfizer

By Christopher Hughes and Neil Unmack
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Time often benefits bidders rather than targets – that’s why U.S.-based food group Kraft left Cadbury flailing for months after making a takeover approach for its UK competitor. But the dynamics of Pfizer’s interest in rival pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca are unusual. Pfizer has good reason to seek a quick, agreed deal.

from The Great Debate UK:

Science’s innovators are to be prized

--Juha Ylä-Jääski (D.Tech.) is President and CEO of Technology Academy Finland. The opinions expressed are his own.--

The 2013 Nobel season is once again gorging on a Grand Cru vintage of scientific achievement. Today, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to three scientists, Levitt, Karplus and Warshel, whose multinational collaboration laid the foundation for the computer models crucial for most advances in chemistry today. Yesterday, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize for physics for conceiving the so-called "God particle" which explains why the Universe has mass. Another trio were recognised on Monday when the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Rothman, Schekman and Südhof for solving the mystery of how the cell transports crucial cargo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Nobel prize winner in exclusive photos

Brussels, Belgium

By Yves Herman

The announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was due at 0945 GMT. Belgian physicist Francois Englert was among the potential winners for this year. Englert, together with Britain's Peter Higgs, were nominated for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson - the particle key to explaining why elementary matter has mass.

Together with Reuters television, who were looking to film exclusive reaction of the winner, we decided to research where Englert might be at the time of the announcement. Aided by our colleague Francois Lenoir, who photographed him at his home last year, we finally found Englert's family apartment in Uccle, southern Brussels. We decided to take a chance to meet him as soon as possible to capture his initial reaction, if it happened that the Higgs boson won the prestigious prize.

from The Great Debate UK:

The digital divide and inspiring young people into science

By Dr Juha Ylä-Jääski, President and CEO, Technology Academy Finland

-- The opinions expressed are the author's own --

Don’t let them be the lost generation.

The young have borne the brunt of the current economic malaise afflicting Europe and much of the developed world, with chronic levels of unemployment and gloomy prospects. At the same time, many are equipped or have the potential to be equipped with the digital skills that can transform our economies through innovation, qualities that their elders often struggle with.

We are failing to grasp this opportunity, however, with demand for tech skills outpacing the ability of educators to provide for it, opening a digital divide that is holding back our economies and our young people.

from Breakingviews:

Leave it to a hedgie to take on Einstein

By Kevin Allison

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Eric Weinstein, a New York hedge fund manager, thinks he has cracked one of the biggest mysteries in physics. The science establishment is rightly sceptical, but intrigued enough to admit Weinstein’s theory deserves further study. Even if he is wrong, it’s nice to see for once a Wall Street boffin applying his intellectual firepower to questions of beauty and truth.

from The Great Debate UK:

US-China research ties should be a wake-up call to Europe

--Dirk Jan van den Berg is President of Delft University of Technology, and was formerly the Dutch Ambassador to China and the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. The opinions expressed are his own.--

Despite much media attention on disagreements, ranging from Taiwan to alleged cyber-attacks, as Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama prepare for their first major summit meeting in California, there is a relatively new and growing basis for warmer ties: scientific and technological collaboration. 

from Photographers' Blog:

A sheep with an artificial heart – or maybe not

Tianjin municipality, China

By Petar Kujundzic

I took a trip to the port city of Tianjin after China Central Television (CCTV) reported on a sheep with an artificial heart developed at TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital. According to CCTV, the hospital recently unveiled a new artificial heart, which was implanted in a sheep two months ago. The sheep lived healthily for more than 62 days, a new record among similar experiments in the country.

This sounded like a very good reason to leave Beijing for a day and report about such an extraordinary achievement. Upon arrival we met the hospital’s administration director who told us that this was not really an artificial heart but a ventricular assistant device (VAD), which is basically a mechanical pump that's used to support the heart’s function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. He didn't know why CCTV had reported differently.

from Photographers' Blog:

Mars in the desert

Outside Hanksville, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

I may be a Red Shirt but I made it to Mars.

According to Urban Dictionary (the finest source of American literature), a Red Shirt is defined as; A character in a science fiction or adventure story whose sole dramatic purpose is to get killed by the story's villain and/or itinerant monster. Taken from the propensity of security officers on the original Star Trek series (who typically wore red uniform tops) to be killed in the episodes' pre-opening-credits teasers.


When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut but I never had the discipline to follow through. At one point I wanted to be a scientist but I barely made it out of high school and later dropped out of college but not until after I learned a little chemistry for recreational use in my younger days.

from Jack Shafer:

Horsemeat hysteria

Disgust, the gag reflex and flights to the vomitorium greeted this week's news that horse flesh had breached the beef wall to contaminate burgers and frozen beef meals (lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, shepherd's pie, meatballs) all over Europe. Some of the "beef" products contained 100 percent horsemeat, and early forensic tests hinted that the contamination might go back as far as August 2012.

Both the British government and the European Union called for "horsemeat summits" to investigate the food scandal, with British officials surmising that a criminal conspiracy would be found responsible for adulterating beef products with cheaper horse. But for all the horsemeat hysteria recorded and amplified by the press, "no risk to consumer health" was posed by the products, as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland reported. The injuries from eating horsemeat were not physical, they were psychological, and where they were not psychological they were anthropological, or else simply nonexistent. According to the Ireland health authority, every beef-and-horse burger it analyzed tested negative for phenylbutazone, a common horse medicine that's banned from the food chain.