International brouhaha over AbbVie misstep highlights U.K.'s M&A rules

Analysts generally believe that big takeovers are easier to pull off under the U.K.'s M&A guidelines. But you'd better not ignore the very specific rules of the game. AbbVie ($ABBV) got a lesson on that score yesterday after CEO Richard Gonzalez confidently confided to a number of major news outlets, including the Financial Times and Reuters, that he had already chatted up most of Shire's ($SHPG) big investors and won their support for a $51 billion buyout. Then he had to follow up with a retraction, noting that under the British rules you can't claim investor support for a deal unless it's in writing. A nod and a friendly nudge over a gin and tonic will not suffice. The retraction is being played up as a major embarrassment for AbbVie, Gonzalez and their advisers. But a $51 billion bid with a 75% premium means never having to say you're really sorry. Big investors, no doubt, will have no trouble being heard in the coming days. Story