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CEO Daily: Tuesday, November 24

If you are wondering why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are doing well this campaign season, look no further than the Pfizer-Allergan deal announced yesterday. Consider:

 

-Americans pay the highest prices for drugs of anyone in the world;

 

-Congress prohibits the government from negotiating with drug companies to get a better deal;

 

-As a result, the American market provides the bulk of profits for most drug companies;

 

-Pfizer returns the favor by moving its legal domicile to Dublin to escape U.S. taxes.

 

Are you angry yet? Trump called the deal “disgusting.” Sanders said it was a “disaster.” I’m inclined to agree.

 

Sure, I understand Pfizer CEO Ian Read’s lament that high U.S. taxes leave him at a competitive disadvantage. I share his despair over Congress’ inability to deal with that – or any other – problem. And I’m very much in sympathy with those who want to create a functioning free market for health care in this country, and who believe allowing the government to negotiate prices is tantamount to market-killing price controls.

 

But the end result is that Americans are getting screwed – or perhaps raped is more appropriate, if you consider the price-gouging actions of companies like Turing and Valeant. No wonder they are mad as hell.

 

So voter cynicism leads to dysfunctional politics causing a stalemate in Washington prompting Pfizer’s desertion, which feeds voter cynicism, and on it goes. This won’t end well – for the drug companies or for the country.

 

Enjoy the day, and stay well. Illness will cost you.

 

More news below.

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Icahn to push harder for AIG break up

Activist investor Carl Icahn has proposed adding a new director to American International Group’s board, saying he believed the insurer’s CEO Peter Hancock was unlikely to consider Icahn’s call to split the firm into three. The billionaire, now AIG’s fifth largest shareholder, believes that splitting up the company would return more cash to shareholders and help AIG rid itself of a regulatory burden. Reuters

Xerox also finds itself an Icahn target

On Monday, Icahn also generated headlines when he disclosed a 7.1% stake in printer and business services provider Xerox, calling the stock “undervalued.” Icahn said he is aiming to discuss operational changes and strategic alternatives with Xerox’s management. He also mentioned possible board representation. Shares of Xerox, which posted a $31 million third-quarter loss, have dropped 21% the past year. CNBC

Alcoa targeted by activist investor

Activist investors certainly had a busy Monday – take a look at the separate example of Alcoa, which found itself the target of hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., which disclosed it has amassed a 6.4% stake in the mining company since it made the announcement it would split in two. Elliott believes that Alcoa is the most undervalued of U.S. metals and mining firms, which reportedly prompted the investment. Broadly, the sector has been stung by a drop in metal prices and the Wall Street Journal has reported that Elliott concluded Alcoa was “the best target” because of its aerospace and automotive businesses – which it believes have been overshadowed by the commodity woes. Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Petco fetches $4.6 billion

Pet supplies retailer Petco confirmed on Monday that it will be acquired by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board in a deal that should close by early next year. The sellers are two firms that paid $1.8 billion to take Petco private back in 2006. They had filed IPO plans for Petco back in August, but ultimately agreed to a sale after receiving takeover interest. The deal comes after Petco’s top rival PetSmart was acquired last last year for $8.7 billion by a private equity firm. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Is there Pfizer-Allergan skepticism?

A larger-than-average gap in Allergan’s share price compared to what Pfizer had offered to pay for it suggests that investors are concerned the $160 billion deal may not be completed. By Monday afternoon, all three Democratic presidential candidates came out against the deal, saying it and deals like it are bad for U.S. taxpayers and the economy. “The gap is a function of how much risk investors think there is in getting the deal done,” said one analyst. Fortune

Pfizer’s “faux-Irish firm”

At the Washington Post, former Fortune senior editor-at-large Allan Sloan – who last year wrote about the trend of taking American companies overseas – weighed in on the deal, calling Pfizer a “faux-Irish firm” that will be run from New York but will be domiciled in Dublin. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, compared with 15% for Ireland. The transaction is “scary,” Sloan contends, pointing out that Pfizer will be able to access about $70 billion of profit it has held offshore without paying U.S. income tax on it – taxes that will now never be paid. Washington Post

Banking CEO says salaries too high

Deutsche Bank AG co-CEO John Cryan said bankers earn too much money and are often promised rewards too quickly. He contends that many people in the financial sector “still believe they should be paid entrepreneurial wages for turning up to work with a regular salary, a pension and probably a health-care scheme and playing with other people’s money.” Cryan, who took over as co-CEO of Deutsche Bank in July, said managers needed to slow the bonus process so employees aren’t rewarded for work before it comes to full fruition. Bloomberg

Hotels evolve to meet new challenges

Luxury hotels are evolving to meet the changing needs of their clientele, in particular aiming to please their business customers, who are their best customers but also a demanding crowd. As Fortune reports, the hotel industry has launched new limited and select-service brands that offer tech-friendly lobbies, grab-and-go food stations, and modern rooms that are more of a draw than the traditional full-service properties. One problem area? Wi-Fi: it is a top guest priority but still hard to find for free at many upscale and luxury properties.  Fortune