* Vale could be hit with $15.1 bln bill if tax upheld
* Decision to impact Brazilian multinationals
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 3 Brazil's Supreme Court
on Wednesday put off for a week the judgment of a landmark case
that will decide how the foreign profits of mining giant Vale SA
and other multinationals are treated by tax
Vale alone faces 30.5 billion reais ($15.1 billion) in tax
judgments related to the case, or 15 percent more than the
company's average annual profit in the last three years.
The ruling will also impact other multinationals such as Cia
Siderurgica Nacional, chemical maker Braskem SA
and steelmaker Gerdau SA.
The court's 10 active judges will use the extra time to try
to come to a majority decision in the case. The judges'
opinions, plus an 11th written decision by a judge who recently
left the court, differ too much to decide the case or create a
clear precedent on how to tax foreign profits, justice Gilmar
Mendes told reporters after the court's session in Brasilia.
Preliminary rulings, or votes, in the case, which has
dragged through the Brazilian justice system for 12 years,
combined with changes in the court suggest that the companies
have a narrow edge over the government, Rodolfo De Angele and
other JPMorgan Chase & Co. mining company analysts wrote in a
Wednesday report to investors.
Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa said he planned to vote that
the tax rules are unconstitutional except for subsidiaries based
in jurisdictions declared unfair tax havens by the Brazilian
government. His, and all other judges' decisions, can change up
to the moment that the court declares its final ruling.
Vale preferred shares, the company's most-traded class of
stock, rose 5.8 percent and its common shares rose
6.5 percent in Sao Paulo Wednesday before the judges suspended
their televised deliberations.
The preferred shares jump was the third biggest rise in two
years. The common share rise was the biggest since September
The case, which is being led by Brazil's National
Confederation of Industry (CNI), revolves around the treatment
of foreign profits for Brazilian tax calculation. Brazilian
companies object to their government's attempt to tax their
foreign profits before the foreign subsidiaries repatriate the
profits to the Brazilian parent.
The plaintiffs say that this is a second tax on foreign
profits, which are already taxed by authorities where the
subsidiary is based. To consider that foreign profit part of the
Brazilian unit's profit before it returns home as dividends also
results in taxation of changes in the value of the parent
company's equity in foreign units.
"Foreign equity can rise even when foreign profit falls,"
said Paulo Ayres Barreto, who argued in front of the court for
the CNI. "That's essentially taxing losses."
The government argued that its measures, introduced in 2001,
were designed to prevent tax evasion through the use of foreign
tax havens and to prevent investment and profits needed in
Brazil from going abroad.