- REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Drug giants Pfizer and Allergan are in talks to merge.
If successful, it would be the biggest deal of the year – and they would create the world’s largest healthcare company.
But the news should not come as a surprise.
Pfizer CEO Ian Read has frequently pointed to relatively high US taxes as a competitive challenge for the company.
And in an earnings call last week, he dropped some pretty big hints about the potential merger.
Questions about tax inversions dominated the earnings call Q&A, with many analysts pointing to previous instances when Read has talked about inversion deals and how attractive they are.
To recap: an inversion is a legal move in which a US company merges with a foreign-domiciled company to shift its address to a country with a lower tax rate.
“To be successful in the future, we need to have a competitive tax rate,” Read said in response to a question about the political risk of inversion on the earnings call. “So that is why it’s an important issue for us.”
When asked about the proposed regulation designed to curtail inversion deals, Read said, “I’d like to point out that these rules are proposed rules. They have not been triggered.”
Another response from Read pointed to the urgency with which he may want to do a tax inversion.
“If there was a deal to be done, I’d prefer it to be done under the present Congress,” he said. “You don’t know what the conformation of the new Congress will be, so you’d rather do it in a Congress [in which] you do know who are setting the rules and what the rules are.”
And in another comment on how quickly a tax-inversion deal could come together, Read said, “This management team is not afraid of taking bold steps, and we’re looking at opportunities. And when we make our decision as to what is the best way of enhancing value, we will move.”
Move they have.