U.S. drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb is moving assets of up to $25 billion from an Irish holding company, it said on Friday, fanning worries in Ireland that it is growing less competitive.
A company spokesman said the liquidation of assets in Bristol-Myers Squibb International Holdings was "part of the company's ongoing review of its financial operations."
"It's a holding company. It does not have any business operations or workforce. This action will not have any impact on the day-to-day operation in Ireland," said Brian Henry, regional spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squibb, which also has two factories in Ireland.
Henry declined to comment on a report in The Irish Times that the move was to benefit from even lower corporate tax rates elsewhere than the 12.5% levy in Ireland which ranks among Europe's lowest.
Bristol-Myers Squibb would not say where it was transferring the assets of the holding company, which owns subsidiaries in the United States, Europe, Latin American and Asia.
The holding company had pretax profits of 1.66 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in 2005.
Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" boom since the 1990s has been driven in part by the arrival of multinationals in search of low taxes and an educated workforce.
But Ireland has grown increasingly worried that it is losing its edge as other countries have lowered taxes to attract business and as soaring costs have accompanied the white-hot economic growth.
"High level business sources say a large number of other organizations are considering large-scale transfers of assets from Ireland," the Irish Times said.
A series of recent job cuts by multinationals have grabbed headlines and drawn widespread calls for government action to find a way to cut business costs.