More Corporate Tax Deals this Week

April 24, 2014

Funny, they always seem to go one direction: out of the U.S. and away from the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate.

Bloomberg reported this week on a possible mega-merger of Pfizer and U.K.-based AstraZeneca. CNBC speculates that tax has a lot to do with it:

  • Pfizer's got an estimated $70 billion in cash, much of which is parked overseas. An acquisition of London-based AstraZeneca would put that cash to work without bringing it back to the U.S., avoiding a gigantic tax bill for Pfizer.
  • The opportunity to lower its corporate tax rate. SunTrust analyst John Boris points out Pfizer pays the highest tax rate—28 percent in 2013—of all of its peers.That compares to 17 percent to 18 percent for Bristol-Myers Squibb and about 20 percent for AstraZeneca, he said. Reincorporating in lower-taxed locales, like Ireland, has been a hot trend among drug companies in the last few years (see: Actavis/Warner-Chilcott andPerrigo/Elan), and Pfizer could be seeking a similar path.
  • Cancer drugs. AstraZeneca's got a pipeline of experimental medicines in a field called immuno-oncology, which aims to harness the immune system to fight cancer, one of the most important fields of cancer drug development.

Bloomberg also reports that Canada-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals made an offer for California-based Allergan Inc., maker of Botox. Canada’s corporate tax rate is 26 percent, versus 39 percent in the U.S. The U.K. will soon lower their corporate tax rate to 20 percent.

Some of the more recent corporate exits from the U.S. include Applied Materials, Jim Beam, and potentially Walgreens.

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