Is Treasury Plan for Tax Inversion REALLY Trouble for Merger Stocks?

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The U.S. Treasury has finally made its proposed effort to deal with the waves of corporate tax inversions that have created such a stir of late. The move is also creating an impact in some of the key players that are front and center in the tax inversion game at this moment.

The steps taken by the Treasury were said to be to make companies think twice before undertaking an inversion to try to avoid U.S. taxes, and it is asking for legislation to make the loophole a closed one. For some companies already considering deals, the action will mean that inversions no longer make the same economic sense.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to review some of the top tax inversions. We have included several key deals and we have followed up at the end with the aim of Treasury Secretary Lew. Some of these stocks opened down handily, but as you will see, some have recovered from those key losses.

AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) is the big deal, and its plan to buy Shire PLC (NASDAQ: SHPG) in a more than $50 billion deal. Shire shares were down 1.8% at $251.70, but this stock opened at $248.70 Tuesday. AbbVie opened down over 3% at $56.85 on Tuesday, and shares were down 1.9% at $57.50 in early afternoon trading.

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Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW) was a very recent inversion, with its attempt to go up to Canada to buy the coffee and doughnut chain of Tim Hortons Inc. (NYSE: THI). This was expected to be a great deal for Burger King, but its shares were down some 1.8% at $30.50 in afternoon trading. This is right where the stock opened on Tuesday, but shares had gotten back up to $31.06 closing price of the day before prior to selling back off in late morning trading on Tuesday. Oddly enough, Tim Hortons shares were down only 0.6% at $79.70 in Tuesday’s early afternoon trading, and shares opened down at $79.09 on Tuesday.

Mylan Inc. (NASDAQ: MYL) has a pending deal for the overseas generics business of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) for roughly $5.2 billion. Mylan shares were down at $45.52 at the open, but the stock was recently down only two cents at $46.51. Abbott Lab’s stock was down 1.6% at $42.70 in early afternoon trading, just a penny under its opening price.

Medtronic Inc. (NYSE: MDT) is now said to be weighing how new rules will affect its plan to buy Covidien PLC (NYSE: COV). Covidien was down 2.9% at $87.77, after having opened at $87.63. Medtronic shares were down 3.7% at $63.53, after opening at $63.50 on Tuesday. Medtronic should still be able to get Covidien’s cash held overseas but may have issues with its international cash flows.

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Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) is being deemed a loser here for its attempted purchase of AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN). This deal has been rejected by AstraZeneca and Pfizer had already walked, but the real question was going to be “when” rather than “if” Pfizer was going to make another attempt or look elsewhere for solid inversion opportunities. Pfizer shares were down 0.5% at $30.03 in afternoon trading, but the Dow stock had opened down at $29.83 on Tuesday.

Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: SLXP) is in a complicated deal to buy a division of Italy’s Cosmo Pharmaceuticals for some $2.6 billion, but this may play into the hands of Allergan Inc. (NYSE: AGN). Salix shares were actually up almost 5% at $167.45, but the stock actually opened up at $169.80. Allergan shares were up 2.5% at $170.30 in afternoon trading, over $3 higher than where the stock opened.

Chiquita Brands International Inc. (NYSE: CQB) is in a $500 million deal to acquire Fyffes, and this stock has had a hard time determining if this is good or bad in the end — particularly with another potential offer out there. Chiquita shares were down 0.4% at $13.84 in Tuesday afternoon trading. Its shares opened at $13.84 as well, but the stock was up as high as $13.95 before pulling back.

These are certainly not the only pending deals, but they are among the more high-profile ones. After first look this morning, the notion that the proposals are plans and that legislation is still needed may mean that some of the bite may not follow the bark here. Stay tuned, because it is too early to tell how this will pan out. Changing tax codes and creating real penalties for companies sounds easy in press releases and media reports, but it is harder to get permanent change enacted that truly prevents certain actions.

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Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew did say that genuine cross-border mergers make the U.S. economy stronger by enabling U.S. companies to invest overseas and encouraging foreign investment to flow into the United States. Lew also said:

But these transactions should be primarily driven by genuine business strategies and economic efficiencies, not a desire to shift the tax residence of a parent company to a low-tax jurisdiction to avoid U.S. taxes. To address this, today’s action eliminates certain techniques inverted companies currently use to access the overseas earnings of foreign subsidiaries of the inverting U.S. company without paying U.S. tax. We’re also making it more difficult for companies to invert, by strengthening the requirement that the former owners of the U.S. entity own less than 80 percent of the new combined entity.