If there is a take-away message from the $8.5 billion deal in which Actavis is going to buy Warner-Chilcott, it would be that taxes matter. How so? As part of the acquisition, Actavis is going to declare its new headquarters will be in Ireland, where the drugmaker can pay significantly less corporate tax.
This year, for instance, Actavis can expect to pay roughly 28 percent in corporate taxes, but by reincorporating across the pond, its tax rate will drop to about 17 percent. And this boosts Actavis in different ways, according to analysts.
“They were at a little competitive disadvantage for deals,” says David Maris, managing director of specialty pharmaceuticals at BMO Capital Markets. “Competitors with lower tax rates can afford to buy products at higher prices, but now they can absorb (deals) into a lower tax jurisdiction… So they not just pay lower taxes today, but also benefit in future deals.
But it’s a clear example of how the tax rate hurts business The United States government loses out, because it’s not getting near-term cash and loses out forever on future taxes of the newly combined company. It’s not actually as simplistic as that because Actavis still has to pay taxes generated on profits in the US, but it’s fair to say the US Treasury gets less money when a company does something like this.”
Actavis executives, however, will likely continue paying some US income taxes, though. While not disclosing individual tax strategies, Actavis ceo Paul Bisaro acknowledged that the senior management team is not moving to Ireland. “Everybody loves New Jersey too much,” he told analysts this morning. For the curious, the drugmaker is currently based in Parisippany, New Jersey.
Of course, a key reason for this deal, which includes absorbing some $3.5 billion in Warner-Chilcott (WCRX) debt, is that Actavis (ACT) should stand a better chance of successfully negotiating the looming end of the patent cliff. As fewer patents expire on big-selling brand medicines, generic drugmakers will have fewer opportunities to sell cheap copycat versions. “US generic companies are being driven up the value chain,” writes Sanford Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal in a research note.
Specifically, Warner-Chilcott helps Actavis diversify into such therapeutic categories as women’s health and dermatology. As a result, sales of brand-name medicines will soon account for 25 percent of annual revenue instead of approximately 8 percent. Put another way, this climbs from $600 million or so to perhaps $2 billion, according to Maris.
And this can create still more opportunities to take advantage of other brand-name purchases, since the Actavis name is now more likely to show up on a list of potential acquirers that bankers will circulate when talking to clients about products that may be auctioned off. “They’re more likely to be in the running now,” Maris points out.
“Everyone wants the next Lipitor, but overall, the generic drug opportunity is shrinking,” he continues. “Actavis has a few brand-name drugs, but the list of companies able to make the transition is few and far between… But they’re also starting to realize that it also pays to be in emerging markets, where a generic drug can become a brand, where there’s no automatic pharmacy substitution. Warner-Chilcott is mostly a US business, but Acatvis can now start bringing those drugs to other geographies.”