Shareholders Pressure Walgreen To Move To Europe For Tax Purposes

The Deerfield, IL based Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) is the largest drugstore chain in the United States but many are calling for it to headquarter overseas when it completes its takeover of Alliance Boots, Europe’s largest pharmacy chain in 2015.

Walgreen’s meeting with investors

Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) has stopped short of confirming or denying that it is considering the move.  In a statement Monday, Jim Graham, a spokesman, said the company regularly meets with investors and “always welcome(s) their input.”

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“Our focus is always on analyzing and doing what is in the best long-term interest of our company and its shareholders, and when we have something more definitive to announce about our future structure and strategies, we will do so,” Graham said, in a statement.

The Financial Times is reporting that the shareholders met with company executives in Paris on Friday to detail their plans of the proposed tax inversion. The United States, much to the chagrin of many, has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world and has long” forced” companies to divert their earnings to a number of offshore havens where they needn’t pay at 35%.

According to the Financial Times, Walgreen Chief Executive Greg Wasson, Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon and Stefano Pessina, the Italian billionaire chairman of Alliance Boots were all in attendance last week.

Notable names

The group contains some big names including Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and hedge funds Jana Partners, Corvex and Och-Ziff. Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) has repeatedly stated that it is happy with its Illinois home and does not wish to alienate customers with an oversees move. That move would, however, become possible with the finalized merger with Alliance Boots. Walgreen purchased 45% of the chain in 2012 with an option to buy the rest in 2015. Analysts almost unanimously see Walgreen exercising its option.

Neither Goldman Sachs Investment Partners or hedge funds Jana Partners, Corvex and Och-Ziff have responded to numerous media calls for comment while a spokesperson for Alliance Boots has stated that it is a Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) issue and not in the company’s portfolio to comment on the matter.