Fox Business Network's MacDonald: Govt Pensions Benefit From Companies' Move Overseas

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 07:21 AM

By Michelle Smith

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There's something you're not hearing in all the talk about corporate inversion — government pension funds are among those that benefit from the moves.

This year, about a dozen brands, including Chiquita and Medtronic, have merged with foreign companies and shifted their headquarters overseas. Analysts say the motive for these corporate inversion deals is major tax savings.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projects the United States is set to lose nearly $20 billion in tax revenue in the next decade due to companies fleeing the nation for more tax-friendly territory.

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"Companies have an obligation to their shareholders, and it's not in their fiduciary interest to pay a 35 percent tax rate," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, The Washington Post reported.

But those shareholders are not just fat cat hedge funds, banks or Wall Street investment companies. More than a dozen state government pension funds that run retirement accounts for government workers like teachers, policemen and firemen own big chunks in these "corporate deserters," according to Elizabeth MacDonald, senior stocks editor of Fox Business Network.

Take AbbVie. The company spent $54.9 billion to acquire the U.K. drugmaker Shire, which "ranks as the largest announced to date corporate inversion deal," and now the company will be based in Great Britain, Richard Peterson, senior director at S&P Capital IQ, told MacDonald.

However, eight of the 10 largest pension investors in AbbVie are teacher and state government funds for New York, California, New Jersey, Ohio and Arizona. State pension investment in the company is $1.3 billion, according to Peterson.

With many other corporate inverters it's the same story. Pension funds from these states and others, such as Virginia, Texas and Kentucky, are among the roster of shareholders.

According to Peterson state government pension funds own more than $1.14 billion in Walgreen, which is buying a $6.7 billion dollar stake in Switzerland's Alliance Boots. If the company moved to Switzerland analysts estimate its tax bill could drop by one-third, MacDonald noted.

A projected $4 billion could flow back to Walgreen's bottom line during the next five years — helping the government pension funds' return on their investments.

"But you don't hear about government pension investments in the criticism about this tax-cutting move," she wrote.

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