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Workers are shown on the Centrum multivitamin packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012.
Workers are shown on the Centrum multivitamin packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012.
(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

When mega-mergers are less than the sum of their parts

Pfizer Inc. says it wants to pay more tax in the U.K., so much more that it will shift its legal domicile to Britain if its proposal to take over AstraZeneca PLC is accepted. You would think the British would be pleased, with the added schadenfreude of seeing a large U.S. company turn its back on Washington. Instead, Pfizer has been pelted with mud, accused of cynically using the U.K. as a tax haven while harbouring secret plans to decimate AstraZeneca’s research operation, killing British jobs and science. It sounds like politics as usual (familiar to Canadians): a U.S. company threatens to take over a national corporate darling that has found itself in a vulnerable place. But this row is bigger than a storm in Westminster’s teacup. It is exposing global fault lines: should a state use tax incentives to promote its own knowledge economy in a world where large companies prefer short-term shareholder return to national loyalty, or even the public good?