At January’s JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, Amgen CEO Robert Bradway proclaimed that his company would be “a clear beneficiary” of any corporate tax reform U.S. President Donald Trump could enact.
One reason? At the end of last year, his company led the biopharma industry in cash stashed overseas, with a balance of $34.4 billion.
That’s quite the pretty penny, and it’s money that Amgen—whose older meds are coming up against biosimilar competition and whose PCSK9 hope Repatha has started off slowly—would surely like to have in its stateside coffers for dealmaking.
And with new tax reform proposals that could make it cheaper to repatriate that cash, Amgen’s dream could become a reality.
The California company is hardly alone in that dream. Its Big Biotech rival, Gilead—whose investors have been waiting for years for a big M&A move—has $27.4 billion in cash out of reach, and that money could help the company snag a pretty hefty buy. CEO John Milligan, after all, has already admitted to investors that Gilead’s lack of launches and upcoming patent losses make it “challenging for us to grow without some sort of acquisition.”
Also in the double-digit billions is Pfizer, whose CEO, Ian Read, has been a vocal advocate for corporate tax reform for years. That’s not surprising, considering that last year, his company recorded $80 billion in earnings reinvested overseas, and it’s currently sitting on $15 billion of overseas cash.
While U.S. drugmakers are likely to cheer on any plan that gets those dollars home, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, for one, has warned that they may not like all aspects of a forthcoming tax reform plan.
“At the end of the day it could mean for a company like Johnson & Johnson—and I would dare say others—that your tax rate could go up marginally,” he told an audience at JPMorgan.
Regardless, it may still be awhile before pharma realizes any material changes. As members of Congress have warned, striking a tax reform deal will be no easy feat.