MIAMI: Burger King is in talks to buy doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create a new holding company headquartered in Canada, a move that could shave its tax bill.
Such an overseas shift, called a tax inversion, has become increasingly popular among US companies and a hot political issue. Burger King was founded in 1954 with a single restaurant in Miami, where it is currently based.
Shares of Burger King and Tim Hortons both jumped 17 percent before the opening bell, heading toward all-time highs.
In a tax inversion, a US company reorganises in a country with a lower tax rate by acquiring or merging with a company there. Inversions also allow companies to transfer money earned overseas to the parent company without paying additional US taxes. That money can be used to reinvest in the business or to fund dividends and buybacks, among other things.
Companies like AbbVie, a pharmaceutical with its headquarters just outside Chicago, have tied up with companies overseas to achieve that type of tax cut. More recently, Walgreen backed away from such a plan under intense pressure and criticism at home.
Burger King and Tim Hortons cautioned on Sunday that there was no guarantee a deal would happen, and it’s not clear exactly how much a tie-up would reduce Burger King’s tax costs. But a recent report by KPMG found that total tax costs in Canada are 46.4 percent lower than in the United States.
Burger King said its majority owner, investment firm 3G Capital, would own the majority of shares of the new company if a deal were to happen.
3G Capital, which has offices in Brazil and New York, is known for its aggressive cost-cutting. The firm bought Burger King in 2010 and went to work trimming overhead costs and revamping operations before taking the chain public again in 2012. Last year, 3G also teamed with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to take H J Heinz Co private in a $23bn deal, and has been cutting costs there as well.