The proposed merger between pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (makers of Viagra) and Allergan (manufacturers of Botox and Juvederm fillers) has been halted, due to new US Treasury rules to make controversial so-called “tax inversions” less lucrative.
Tax inversion is the practice of shifting the tax base overseas to a lower tax country or tax haven while retaining operations in the country of origin where higher taxes would apply.
The $160bn merger would have saved Pfizer an estimated $1bn each year in tax as Pfizer planned to move headquarters to Allergan’s base in Ireland, thereby benefiting from lower corporate tax rates. The deal would also have created the world’s largest pharmaceutical firm.
The decision to halt the merger was said to be a mutual one based on an “Adverse Tax Law Change” clause within the merger agreement. The tax proposals would have eliminated or significantly reduced the cost-saving benefits.
Pfizer chief executive, Ian Read, said:
“Pfizer approached this transaction from a position of strength and viewed the potential combination as an accelerator of existing strategies. We remain focused on continuing to enhance the value of our innovative and established businesses… …enhancing shareholder value.”
Brent Saunders at Allergan issued a separate statement, saying that while he was “disappointed” with the news, Allergan was “poised to deliver strong, sustainable growth built on a set of powerful attributes.” It was also reported that Allergan would be paid $150m to cover its costs.
US President Barack Obama has previously criticised corporate tax avoidance in particular “inversions” – the legal practice of shifting a tax base overseas. It is an issue which unites presidential candidates too with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as well as Republican Donald Trump all opposing the practice.
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