China: 是时候看好收购巴西业务了么?

2016年3月,巴西股指(Bovespa Index)达到自2002年10月以来的最佳月度表现,获得了17%的增长。同月,巴西雷亚尔兑美元亦升值10%。受总统迪尔玛.罗塞夫即将被弹劾一事影响,巴西人抱持审慎乐观的态度认为他们可能会在总统批评者口中的灾难性经济及法律政策中被解救出来。这种突然而来的狂喜是不是一个鼓励国际公司购买巴西业务的信号?尤其是近期经济衰退导致资产价值下跌,而巴西雷亚尔兑美元在过去五年亦贬值超过100%?

弹劾一事本身并不会提升巴西在世界银行和国际金融公司发布的"营商便利化"指数中的排名。目前巴西在189个国家和地区中排名第120,该名次可令在巴西的并购过程变得特别具挑战性。要摆脱在巴西经营的额外成本(又称"巴西成本" (Custo Brasil)),单单替换总统是不够的。欲在巴西投资的外国人需考虑多重经济及其他因素,包括巴西法律、风俗和文化的独特性。

透明度

贪污腐败是"巴西成本"的重要元素,其可令并购过程令人生畏。在尽职调查过程中,特别是牵涉私人公司时,调查者可能会发现标的公司向政府机构支付过不当款项,这些不当支付往往涉及税务、劳务、政府许可或海关相关的事项。鉴于美国《反海外腐败法》及其他国家的类似法律规定,投资者需在交易前调查出这些行为,并实施必要的控制及培训系统,以确保这些行为在收购后不会持续。除了聘请审计师事务所查核会计记录外,聘请私家侦探对标的公司及其管理人员和股东进行背景调查也是常见的。

2014年1月生效的巴西《企业腐败防治法》中规定了与美国《反海外腐败法》及英国《反贿赂法》相类似的要求。例如当一家公司通过合并被收购时,法律要求承继公司承担最高额达交易中被转让的资产总值的赔偿和罚款。新颁布的法律减少了不当支付行为的发生,除此之外,可令投资者得到一些宽慰的是,有别于世界其他地区的许多公司管理层(也有别于某些巴西政客!),巴西公司的管理人员在被询问时通常都会坦白并承认他们曾经采取的一些有问题的做法。

缺乏透明度亦影响大众对司法机关的信任。由于担心透明度低(不论是感觉上还是实际上)以及巴西法院的过度拖沓,仲裁成了并购协议中受欢迎的争议解决机制。若需在巴西执行仲裁裁决(由于一方的主要资产在巴西),则该仲裁应该在巴西境内进行。在巴西境外进行的仲裁,其裁决需经"司法确认"后才能得以被巴西法院执行。在巴西进行的仲裁可以以英语进行并适用国际法则。

劳动法

"巴西成本"另一重要部分是巴西复杂的劳动法律。这些法律强制要求提供各种附加福利以及雇佣条款,包括劳动关系终止时支付遣散费的义务。在巴西并不存在"任意雇佣"(at-will employment)这一概念。

大部分巴西公司的员工会自动成为代表其产业或专业的工会成员,雇主必须遵照相关集体劳动合同中的要求。大部分公司都有很多未决的劳务诉讼(例如,一家在巴西雇有18,000名员工的著名国际公司就有2,000起未决的劳务诉讼)。

在巴西,合格的公司高管的薪资经常要比美国同级别的管理人员还要高,那是因为巴西的物价水平很高,并且受过良好教育的专业人士相对比较稀缺。如公司要留任重要高管(尤其是有限责任公司的管理人员),有些巴西律师认为"薪酬(pro-labore)协议"相较于巴西劳动法项下的雇佣协议可能更为灵活。但是,员工在劳动关系终止后的竞业禁止义务较难执行,并且雇主需在竞业禁止期间向员工支付赔偿(相反,业务出售方的不竞争义务则不需要额外对价)。

很多公司试图通过使用合同工或销售代表的方式来规避劳动法的要求,但是这些合同工或销售代表可能会在偏向员工的劳动法庭对他们的身份进行质疑。除此之外,巴西的销售代理法要求被代理方在代理关系终止时向销售代表支付双方合作期间该销售代表收到的全部对价的十二分之一。

税务

"巴西成本"的第三种成分是繁杂的税制。巴西在国家、州及地方层面均会征收众多税种。激进的税收筹划令遵守复杂的税制更为困难。该等税收筹划中的一些做法有可能在若干年后受到质疑,并有可能面临高额利息及罚款。就算这些做法被发现或质疑的可能性很小,根据美国公认会计准则解释公告48 号,美国公司准备财务报表中税款或有事项时,应在假设相关税务机构实际会对所有税务状况进行审查的基础上计算。

税务筹划是巴西并购过程的一个重要部分。在申报美国所得税时,为了能够按合伙企业进行申报,被收购的巴西实体则应当是一家有限公司(limitada)而不能是股份公司(sociedade anonima)。巴西税务律师处理收购交易时,经常建议通过新设一家巴西公司来购买标的公司的股份,并在收购后将标的公司吸收合并新设公司来达到节税的目的。

民法规定

巴西的民法惯例亦可能限制交易架构设计的灵活性。资产收购而非股权收购并不能避免收购方继承标的公司的劳务责任、税务责任及其他或有债务。事实上,收购方可能会陷入负上整个集团的税务、劳务及环境责任的陷阱。因此,收购方应高度关注适用的诉讼时效。就税务或有事项而言,纳税责任的诉讼时效通常为五个纳税年度;就劳务或有事项而言,现有员工的诉讼时效通常为五年,离职员工的诉讼时效为两年,自离职之日起算。

为了确保原有投资及股息能够汇回给投资方,投资方在投资时应使用带进巴西境内并在巴西中央银行成功注册的资金。若因使用商标、专利或专有技术而需在巴西境外支付特许权使用费的许可交易可应在作为巴西专利商标局的巴西国家工业产权局(INPI)注册。巴西国家工业产权局通常会限制关联方之间就商标或其它权利而支付特许权使用费。根据巴西法律,专有技术的持有人授权他方使用该专有技术不视为许可,而是专有技术的转让。

反垄断方面

巴西现在要求达到法定标准的收购应事先获得巴西反垄断监管机构 -- 经济保护和管理委员会(CADE)的批准。若经营者在交易后的合并市场份额超过相关市场的20%,则交易方需提交一份耗时费力的"长版申报",监管机构有权用更多的时间来审查该申报。从营运及尽职调查的角度来看,收购方需要考虑到对反竞争行为更为严谨的审查,例如价格垄断。

上市公司事项

投资者对巴西上市公司的投资受巴西证监会(CVM)的规定和巴西证劵期货交易所(BM&F Bovespa)的上市规则所监管。收购控制股权可能会触发强制要求收购方发出收购剩余流通股的要约。一些上市公司的章程中可能包含巴西律师称之为"毒丸"的条款,即收购者在仅收购10%或20%的股权时便需履行上述强制要约收购的义务。若标的公司在收购后仍为上市公司的,则上市公司的过户代理可能会要求收购方披露某些信息或采取某些行动以将其购买的股票登记在其名下。过户代理有时还会对未来的股份转让予以限制。

并购惯例及实务

涉及巴西并购协议的惯例及实务可能对购买方有所帮助。例如,有别于美国的做法,资产或股份购买协议通常包含保障买方的交割前责任赔偿条款,该赔偿没有最高限额或限额等同于购买价格,最低赔偿额往往低于购买价格的1%,并且赔偿期限通常为三到五年。在赔偿期间所设的托管金额通常为购买价格的15%至30%。但是,美国收购协议中对赔偿上下限额及期限的限制在巴西越来越多被采用。此外,在跨境并购交易中当标的是巴西实体时,纽约、特拉华州或美国其他州的法律可以作为交易文件的管辖法律(其他拉丁美洲国家经常也是如此)。

巴西法律通常要求由巴西法律管辖的合同中规定合同金额以巴西雷亚尔支付。对于受巴西以外的法律规管的跨国交易,为了避免因汇率浮动而带来的问题,交易价格最好也以巴西货币表示。以当地货币固定价格其实能够与根据收入及成本(以当地货币表示)得出的估价达到一致,亦能简化将准确资金金额注册于中央银行的过程。

最后一个不能忽视的重要事项就是在巴西的交易磋商商谈过程往往会变成一个交易方相互了解的过程。因此,商谈过程通常比在美国或欧洲发生的要长。立即谈生意或采取"要么接受要么走人"的过于进取的谈判策略通常会产生反效果且不会促成交易。

这篇评论改编自克利夫兰城市律师协会在2016年5月的《律师期刊》中的一篇文章,该文章改编自作者在彭博BNA的《并购法律报告》第19卷,13号,490至491页的文章(2016年3月28日)。 2016版权.

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