Company responses are long on praise but short on specifics
Getty ImagesAll hail tax reform.DMAMBMCMDMEMGPREVIEWZBZBRZDZDRZFZGZQZRZSZTZU
President Donald Trump can make corporate America great, or at least more competitive, after he signed the tax bill into law Friday, according to a MarketWatch survey of the large multinational members of Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Almost all the companies that responded applauded the legislation, mostly in the broadest sense and largely in corporate-speak without specifics, saying the lowered corporate tax rate would “allow” or “enhance” the ability of U.S.-headquartered companies to compete more fairly with overseas-based companies. The new tax law lowers the maximum corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%.
Don’t miss: Here are the winners and losers of the final version of the Republican tax bill.
See also: Tax cuts may deliver caffeine rush to the economy, but jolt of adrenaline might not last long.
Although a few companies said the new tax code will make it easier to reinvest in their U.S. businesses, so far only two Dow members have officially laid out a plan of action for some of the tax savings.
It’s easy to see why the Dow’s companies are so supportive of the bill. The Dow (^DJI) has gained 3.2% this month through afternoon trade on Thursday, and 11.5% over the past three months. See Market Snapshot.
See: The Trump tax calculator—will you pay more or less?
The following is a list of the companies’ responses, which came prior to Trump’s signing of the tax bill into law:
Actions speak louder than words
•Boeing Co. (BA) said it will spend $300 million on workforce-related and charitable investments, including $100 million toward workforce development, such as training, and $100 million toward workplace infrastructure enhancements.
“It’s the single-most important thing we can do to drive innovation, support quality jobs and accelerate capital investment in our country,” Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said. “For Boeing, the reforms enable us to better compete on the world stage and give us a stronger foundation for the investment in innovation, facilities and skills that will support our long-term growth.”
•Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) said it would use savings from the tax reform legislation to reward its employees, by raising the starting wage for hourly associates to $11 an hour, effective during the Feb. 17, 2018 pay cycle. The discount retail giant said it would also offer one-time bonuses of up to $1,000, with the top bonus rate only for employees with at least 20 years of service.
The company also expanded paid maternity leave, will offer paid parental leave to full-time hourly employees and will provide a $5,000 benefit for full-time associates to help with adoption fees.
Spokesperson Randy Hargrove: “[The new tax legislation] will provide meaningful relief to American families and companies. Like many businesses, we have paid high effective tax rates for years. Lowering the corporate tax rate will make the U.S. more competitive globally, and promote investment here at home.”
•Travelers Companies Inc. (TRV) didn’t release an official statement, but The Hartford Courant reported recently that an internal memo indicated $1,000 bonuses will be paid to about 14,000 employees, or a little less than half of the insurer’s workforce. The bonuses will be paid to employees making $75,000 a year or less who meet performance expectations, the report said.
The company will also increase its minimum hourly wage to $15, the report said.
Also read: Does corporate America need a tax cut? Here’s what every S&P 500 company actually pays in taxes.
A few companies outside the Dow have announced spending plans. Former Dow component AT&T Inc. (XNYS:T) said it would pay special $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 U.S. employees, and boost capital spending by $1 billion after President Trump signs the bill. Comcast (CMCSA) said it would also pay a bonus and raise the minimum wage, as did PNC Financial Services (FITB) and Fifth Third Bancorp. (FITB)
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Bank of America Corp. (BAC) would pay out $1,000 bonuses to about 145,000 employees, while Wells Fargo & Co. announced it would increase its minimum wage to $15.
What companies said about the bill
•Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) didn’t provide a specific dollar amount about how the bill will benefit the firm, but said it expects the bill to be “positive” for the company and American manufacturers.
“Tax reform provides a more competitive environment for Caterpillar in the U.S. and around the world. The access to overseas cash without owing any additional US taxes would offer us more flexibility in decision making when it comes to use of our cash. We’ll use the cash according to our cash deployment priorities.”
•Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) said it has been pushing for tax reform, saying the current tax system was “broken and outdated,” and put companies at a competitive disadvantage overseas.
“The legislation passed by Congress will modernize our tax system and drive U.S. economic growth, investment and innovation.”
•Coca-Cola Co. (KO) said the bill would make it easier for the company, and others like it, to reinvest in its U.S. business.
“The Coca-Cola Company supports enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because we are confident it will enhance the ability of U.S.-headquartered companies like ours to compete globally on more equal footing and better enable us to reinvest in our U.S. business system as we continue our transformation into a total beverage company.”
•DowDuPont Inc. (DWDP) said the bill should attract increased investment in the U.S.
From Dow Chemical Chief Executive Andrew Liveris: “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a historic and critical win for American manufacturing and competitiveness. Like Dow, manufacturers will be drawn to invest here due to the permanent lower corporate rate, the new territorial tax system and immediate expensing of capital investments. We commend the U.S. Congress for passing this pro-growth tax reform legislation which will help strengthen U.S. competitiveness and job growth.”
•General Electric Co.’s (GE) statement, provided by a GE spokesperson:
“GE supports the tax reform plan because it would upgrade the U.S. to a territorial tax system for the first time in history, bring rates in line with other countries, and allow U.S. businesses and workers to compete fairly around the world, so it’s the quality of our products that determine whether we win global deals, and not tax differences.”
•Home Depot Inc. (HD) hasn’t announced any specific actions, but said it will reinvest in the business with tax savings and return some of it to shareholders.
Earlier this month, the home improvement retailer announced a new $15 billion stock repurchase program and how it planned to be “investing in the future.”
•Nike Inc. (NKE) said late Thursday in a conference call with analysts, following the company’s fiscal second-quarter report, that if the tax bill is enacted into law, the company’s third-quarter tax rate will be “significantly higher” than the 12.7% rate it paid in the second quarter, primarily because of the one-time taxes paid on repatriated foreign earnings.
“That said, we expect U.S. tax reform will have a net favorable impact on Nike, taking into account the impact on taxes, access to capital and capacity to invest across our value chain. Assuming enactment, we will update you with more specifics next quarter,” said Chief Financial Officer Andrew Campion, according to a transcript provided by FactSet.
No comment now, but we love it
•Chevron Corp. (CVX) said it was analyzing the tax bill, but was supportive of reform as long as it was fair to all sectors of the economy.
“Chevron supports comprehensive tax reform and tax policy that enhances both domestic investment in all forms of energy and the global competitiveness of U.S.-based companies. Any tax law changes should be fair and equitable and not disadvantage one sector of the economy, including the energy sector, which is fundamental to our economic growth and national security.”
• United Technologies Corp. (UTX) responded by providing a link to an opinion piece written Chief Executive Greg Hayes for “The Hill” in April 2017: “Replacing outdated tax system needed to make US more competitive.”
In the op-ed, Hayes said the current U.S. tax code was a relic of the past, and said a territorial tax system would provide opportunities to reinvest foreign profits and to create jobs in the U.S.
• American Express Co. (AXP) declined to comment “right now.”
• Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said it didn’t have a comment for the story.
• Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) said it was “analyzing” the tax bill and its implications.
• Pfizer Inc. (PFE) said it had “no announcements forthcoming.”
• Visa Inc. (XNYS:V) said it hasn’t made any announcements related to the tax bill, but that could change.
Awaiting a response
• 3M Co.(MMM)
• Apple Inc.(AAPL)
• Intel Corp.(INTC)
• International Business Machines Corp.(IBM)
• Johnson & Johnson(JNJ)
• J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.(JPM)
• McDonald’s Corp.(MSFT)
• Merck & Co.(MRK)
• Procter & Gamble Co.(PG)
• UnitedHealth Group Inc.(UNH)
• Verizon Communications Inc.(VZ)
• Walt Disney Co.(DIS)
Tomi Kilgore is MarketWatch's deputy investing and corporate news editor and is based in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @TomiKilgore.
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