Pfizer Proposes a Marriage With AstraZeneca, Easing Taxes in a Move to Britain
Pfizer, the maker of best-selling drugs like Lipitor and Viagra and a symbol of business prowess in the United States for more than a century, no longer wants to be an American company.
On Monday, Pfizer proposed a $99 billion acquisition of its British rival AstraZeneca that would allow it to reincorporate in Britain. Doing so would allow Pfizer to escape the United States corporate tax rate and tap into a mountain of cash trapped overseas, saving it billions of dollars each year and making the company more competitive with other global drug makers.
A deal — which would be the biggest in the drug industry in more than a decade — may ultimately not be done. AstraZeneca said on Monday that it had rebuffed Pfizer, after first turning down the company in January. Nonetheless, the pursuit by Pfizer, founded in a redbrick building in Brooklyn in 1849, has made it clear that the company wishes to effectively renounce its United States citizenship.
Pfizer points out that it would retain its corporate headquarters here and remain listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It also says that the main rationale for the deal is broadening its portfolio of drugs, and saving money through combined operations with AstraZeneca.
Still, a deal would allow it to follow dozens of other large American companies that have already reincorporated abroad through acquiring foreign businesses. They have been drawn to countries like Ireland and the Netherlands that have lower corporate rates, as well as by the ability to spend their overseas cash without being highly taxed.