If you’re a company in London and looking for a buyout, chances are you are looking overseas. Consider that, according to Financial Times, about 70% of acquisitions are coming from outside the nation’s borders.
The reasons? Low valuations thanks to a eurozone downturn is key. A path into Western markets from cash-rich Chinese firms is another. But a lesser yet still important motivator is the need for American corporations to avoid the tax burden of repatriating their huge hoards of overseas cash.
But another important factor is the tax benefits of a U.S. company buying an offshore asset. Consider this take from The Wall Street Journal’s Dealpolitik blog about the $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype (which was incorporated in Luxembourg) by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) — and how it resulted in a net savings of about $3 billion for the Seattle software giant. This was achieved thanks to the use of revenue from a foreign Microsoft subsidiary to buy a foreign asset, thus avoiding a corporate tax rate of 35% that would have been levied on the deal if Skype had been a U.S.-incorporated entity.
That 35% savings is not chump change, especially on multibillion-dollar deals. And in an era when companies are flush with cash and looking to find growth, the “savings” of making an overseas acquisition for multinationals could be more attractive than ever.
According to a spring report from Politico, overseas cash hoards for 12 of the United States’ biggest corporations grew by about 20% in 2011.
Check out this hit list of 11 big multinational stocks with huge foreign stockpiles as of the end of last year:
- General Electric (NYSE:GE): About $102 billion in cash and securities
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): $64 billion
- Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT): $46 billion
- Merck (NYSE:MRK): $44 billion
- Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO): $42 billion
- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ): $42 billion
- IBM (NYSE:IBM): $38 billion
- Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL): $25 billion
- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG): $21 billion
- Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM): $16 billion
- Intel (NASDAQ:INTC): $14 billion
The tax benefits alone aren’t a reason to make a buyout, but it sure will help. And as companies face the threat of higher corporate taxes at home to close budget gaps and the squeeze caused by stagnant top-line growth amid a push for earnings gains, acquisitions with foreign cash could make a lot of sense for these U.S. mega-caps.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.