On Monday 23rd November, the US based pharmaceutical business Pfizer (producer of Viagra) announced that it had reached a $160 billion deal to acquire the Irish based pharmaceutical business Allergan (producer of Botox). If it is successful it will be the third largest deal in takeover history.
In a previous blog on this website a number of reasons were discussed to explain why businesses may engage in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) Are large mergers and acquisitions in the interests of the consumer . These include market power, access to growing markets, economies of scale and reducing x-inefficiency. One of the interesting things about the Pfizer and Allegan deal is the importance of another factor that was not discussed in the article – tax avoidance.
Rates of corporation tax vary considerably between countries and may deter some businesses from operating in the US where it is at the relatively high level of 35%. This compares with a rate of 20% in the UK, 12.5% in Ireland and 0% in Bermuda. The global average rate is 23.7% whereas the average across EU countries is 22.2%.
However, a far bigger incentive for a US firm to merge with or acquire businesses in other countries is the unusual way the US authorities tax profits. Most countries use a territorial system. This means that tax is only paid on the profit earned in that country. For example if a UK multinational business has subsidiaries in other countries it only pays corporation tax in the UK on profits earned in the UK. The profits earned by its subsidiary businesses would be taxed at the rate set by the government in the country where they were located.
The US authorities use a worldwide system. This means that profits earned by a subsidiary in another country are also taxed in the US. This is best explained with the help of a simple numerical example.
Assume a US multinational earns $100,000 in profits from a subsidiary based in Ireland. These profits will be taxed in Ireland at the rate of 12.5% and the company would have to pay $12,500 to the Irish government. If that profit was returned to the US it would be taxed again at a rate of 22.5%: i.e. 35% – 12.5%. The company would have to pay the US authorities $22,500.The worldwide system means that the total rate of tax paid by the firm is 35% but it is split between two different countries. If the territorial system was used, the firm would only pay the $12,500 to the Irish government.
So how could M&As change things? If an M&A enables a US multinational business to change its country of incorporation (i.e. move the address of its headquarters) from the US to another country that operates a territorial system its payments will fall. This is sometimes referred to as tax inversion. As the Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine stated:
If we’re incorporated in the U.S., we’ll pay 35 percent taxes on our income in the U.S. and Canada and Mexico and Ireland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, but if we’re incorporated in Canada, we’ll pay 35 percent on our income in the U.S. but 15 percent in Canada and 30 percent in Mexico and 12.5 percent in Ireland and zero percent in Bermuda and zero percent in the Cayman Islands.
As a result of the merger with Allergan, Pfizer will move the address of its headquarters to Ireland even though its global operations and executives will still be based in New York. It has been estimated that this will generate a one off tax saving of $21 billion as Pfizer would avoid having to pay US taxes on $128 billion of profits generated by its non US subsidiaries.
A number of US politicians have condemned the proposed deal. For example Hilary Clinton stated:
This proposed merger, and so called inversions by other companies, will leave US taxpayers holding the bag.
Twenty US companies have moved their headquarters to countries that operate a territorial system of taxation since 2012. These include Burger King’s move to Canada and Medtronic’s move to Ireland.
The US government has tried to tighten the rules but the two major parties disagree about how to deal with the problem.
Pfizer Seals $160bn Allergan deal to create drugs giant BBC News,(23/11/15)
Pfizer’s $160bn Allergan deal under pressure in the US BBC News,(24/11/15)
Pfizer set to buy Allergan in $150bn historic deal The Telegraph,(23/11/15)
Pfizer and Allergan poised to announce history’s biggest healthcare merger-corporate-tax The Guardian,(22/11/15)
Pfizer takeover: what is a tax inversion deal and why are they so controversial? The Guardian,(23/11/15)
- The newly merged business would jump above Johnson and Johnson to become the world’s largest biotech and pharmaceutical company in the world. Who are the other biggest eight Biotech and pharmaceutical businesses in the world?
- What exactly is a subsidiary? Give some real-world examples.
- How have the US authorities changed the rules in an attempt to deter tax inversions?
- Assume that a US multinational makes $1 million profit in the US and $1 million profit from its subsidiary in Ireland. Explain how changing its country of incorporation from the US to Ireland will alter the amount of corporation tax that it has to pay.
August is usually a quiet month for mergers and acquisitions. But not this August! As the linked Independent article below states:
Korea National Oil Corporation’s £1.87bn hostile bid for Dana Petroleum yesterday was just the latest in a surge of activity taking merger and acquisition (M&A) levels to a nine-month high.
Despite edgy economic data from the US, global deal-making has already topped $197bn (£127bn) so far this month, and is on course to beat the August record of $260bn set in 2006, according to Thomson Reuters. This week’s $89.8bn total is the highest weekly total since early November.
During the global recession of 2008/9, M&A activity slumped. In 2007, global M&As were worth $4162bn. In 2009 they were worth only $2059bn. Not only were companies cautious of acquiring other companies in a period of great economic uncertainty, but finance for deals was hard to obtain. Now, with many companies having cut costs and having much healthier balance sheets, they are in a position to bid for other companies. And banks too are much more able and willing to provide the finance to support takeovers.
So does this signify a continuing surge in M&A activity? Or are the August figures likely to be a ‘blip’, with fears of a double-dip recession dampening any renewed takeover fever? The articles below look at the recent cases and at the factors influencing current M&A activity.
Stock markets catch deal fever as M&A booms again Independent, Sarah Arnott (21/8/10)
BHP, Intel, RSA shatter usual August M&A lull Reuters, Quentin Webb (20/8/10)
Global M&A volume could be highest in August International Business Times, Surojit Chatterjee (21/8/10)
Mergers and acquisitions mania disrupts bankers’ summer breaks Guardian, Elena Moya (21/8/10)
Merger mania predicted as cash-rich firms stalk takeover targets Observer, Richard Wachman (22/8/10)
M&A Signal Higher Stock Prices Ahead Minyanville, Terry Woo (20/8/10)
From slowest to busiest TodayOnline (21/8/10)
Data and Reports
The era of globalized M&A: Winds of change Thomson Retuers and J.P.Morgan (June 2009)
Preliminary M&A Financial Press Release 2Q10 Thomson Reuters (25/6/10)
World Investment Report 2010: Annex Tables United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (see tables 9–16)
Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies Office for National Statistics
Mergers & Acquisitions data Office for National Statistics
Mergers and acquisitions involving UK companies: 1st Quarter 2010 Office for National Statistics (2/6/10)
Mergers and Acquisitions Tables Office for National Statistics
- Identify the reasons why firms want to take over other firms.
- Why does M&A activity tend to increase during a period of economic boom and decline during a recession?
- What is likely to happen to M&A activity over the coming months?
- Exmamine two recent mergers or acquistions and explain why the acquiring company was keen to take over the other company, or why the two companies were keen to merge. Were there any economies of scale to be gained? Would the merger increase the acquiring company’s market power?
It’s one of a declining number of UK-owned industries still left in the UK: Cadbury. However, over the past few years, mergers have become the norm and Cadbury looks set to become the next. Kraft, an American food giant, has been interested in taking over Cadbury for some time and this topic was covered on the Sloman Economics News Site at the beginning of September, when we considered Kraft’s bid of £10.2 billion. (see Cadbury: Chocolate all change). Since then Kraft shares have dropped in value and so Kraft’s current bid is now worth less: a hostile bid of £9.8 billion. This has been refused by Cadbury’s Board of Directors, calling it ‘derisory’.
From the time that Kraft’s bid was formally submitted, the stopwatch begins to tick. A 60-day period is allowed under the ‘takeover code’ which is in place to protect shareholders without resorting to a date in court. Following Kraft’s bid, Cadbury share prices immediately fell, but then began to recover as the implications became clearer. Other companies mentioned as potential rivals include Nestlé and Unilever, although, given Cadbury’s recent boost in sales, Unilever has said that it is no longer interested. So, what does the future hold for Cadbury? Will it be the latest in a long line of British companies to leave their UK owners?
Kraft’s Cadbury takeover bid will set 60-day timetabling ticking Guardian, Jill Treanor (9/11/09)
Kraft plays long game in Cadbury pursuit Reuters (9/11/09)
Cadbury rejects hostile Kraft bid BBC News (9/11/09)
Kraft facing 5pm deadline in battle for Cadbury Guardian, Julia Kollewa and Elena Moya (9/11/09)
Strong sales rise boosts Cadbury BBC News (21/10/09)
Cadbury rejects £9.8bn hostile bid from Kraft Guardian, Julia Kollewe (9/11/09)
Kraft may offer more cash in bid for Cadbury Telegraph, Amy Wilson (4/11/09)
Paulson raises Cadbury stake Guardian, Nick Fletcher(11/11/09)
Unilever rule out Cadbury bid as sales beat forecasts Telegraph, Amy Wilson (5/11/09)
Cadbury’s fight for independence BBC News, Edwin Lane (24/12/09)
- Kraft is looking to expand by taking over Cadbury. What type of takeover would you classify this as and what do you think Kraft’s motives are for this takeover bid?
- If Kraft is successful, what are the likely advantages and disadvantages for (a) consumers of Cadbury chocolate; (b) shareholders of Kraft; (c) shareholders of Cadbury; (d) competitiors?
- Cadbury has said that the £9.8bn bid was ‘derisory’. How will Kraft have decided on the price it’s willing to offer and what factors are likely to influence this?
- John Paulson has raised his stake in Cadbury by purchasing another 6.3m shares. What effect do you think this will have on Cadbury’s share price and why? Does this make the takeover by Kraft more or less likely?
- Is there a role for the Competition Commission in this possible takeover? If so, why; and if not, why not?
- Cadbury has reported a boost in sales. What effect will this have on the takeover bid from Kraft? Why has this sales boost caused Unilever to pull out?
Cadbury is arguably the producer of the best Easter eggs and also one of the best known adverts – who can forget the guerrilla playing the drums! If you think there is no substitute for Cadbury chocolate, then you’ll find this story especially interesting.
In early September, Kraft Foods made a £10.2 billion bid for the maker of Dairy Milk. This was duly rejected by Cadbury, whose Chairman said that the offer ‘fundamentally undervalued’ the business. This initial bid, although rejected, has sparked interest in the corporate world and Cadbury shareholders have seen their shares rise in value by almost 40%, closing at 775.5p on Friday 11th September.
Following this bid, other potential buyers have entered the picture, including Nestlé and Hershey’s. There is also the likelihood that Kraft Foods will make a higher bid, financed through a bridging loan. Despite this interest, Cadbury still wants to remain independent, hoping that its investors will be buoyed by the company’s rising profits in recent months.
Take a look at the following articles that consider these possible take-overs of Cadbury and how the corporate world has been, and will continue to be, affected.
Cadbury snubs £10.2bn Kraft move BBC News (7/0/09)
Hershey’s and Nestlé in running to buy Cadbury Telegraph (10/9/09)
Kraft races to prepare new Cadbury bid Guardian (9/9/09)
Return of the Deal? BBC News (7/9/09)
Hershey considers Cadbury counterbid Times Online (9/9/09)
Cadbury spurns ‘low growth’ Kraft BBC News (13/9/09)
Long Cadbury shares? Cash out! Khaleej Times Online (United Arab Emirates) (14/9/09)
Hedge fund Eton Park stakes £180m on Cadbury bid Telegraph (10/9/09)
Cadbury vision is to stay single Financial Times (11/9/09)
- In the 13th September BBC News article, an extract from a letter to the Kraft Chief Executive from the Chairman of Cadbury stated that under Kraft’s offer “Cadbury would be absorbed into Kraft’s low growth, conglomerate business model, an unappealing prospect.” What does he mean by a ‘conglomerate business model?’
- Eton Park has bought £180 million worth of shares. In what ways do you think this will affect the future of Cadbury? Is Cadbury more or less likely to sell now?
- How would you explain the rise in Cadbury’s share price when it looked as though the company might be taken over?
- Cadbury’s Chief Executive hopes that investors will continue to support the company given the positive profit margin growth. What does this actually mean?
- If the take-over were to go ahead, what do you think would be the impact on the (a) the Cadbury factory in Birmingham; (b) Cadbury’s workers; (c) Cadbury’s shareholders; and (d) the price of Cadbury chocolate?