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Burger King Announces Merger With Tim Hortons, Move To Canada


Burger King confirmed today that it is buying Tim Hortons. That's the doughnut and coffee chain headquartered in Canada. It is an $11-billion purchase. Burger King seems - sees a lot of things it likes in Tim Hortons, especially its Canadian address. And we'll talk about this and more with NPR's Jim Zarroli, who's covering the story. Hi, Jim.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, so what's this new company going to look like?

ZARROLI: Well, this is going to bring together one of the United States's most popular fast-food chains - of course that is Burger King - with what is really an iconic, Canadian company. Tim Hortons started out 50 years ago as a coffee and doughnut chain. It's - you know, it's so Canadian, it's named for an ice hockey player.

It's expanded a bit into the United States over the years, especially in the Northeast. But I think it's not all that well-known in this country. The new company will continue to operate both Tim Hortons and Burger King as separate brands. It's going to have 18,000 restaurants, $23 billion in annual sales. I think, you know, as often the case in deals like this, there will be synergy, certain kinds of cost-saving that is helping - that's helping to drive the...

INSKEEP: Let's talk about the essential cost-saving here. We're told that part of the deal is that Burger King moves its corporate headquarters from the United States to Canada and that its tax rate changes. Is that right?

ZARROLI: Yes, Burger King now - well, let me put it this way, Burger King is now a U.S. company, so it has to pay U.S. taxes on the money and any money that it earns in different country. But by relocating, by having its headquarters relocate to Canada, it won't have to do that anymore. Instead it will have to pay the Canadian tax rate, which is a lot lower.

Now, there's also another way that companies that do these inversions can lower their tax bills. The Canadian parent company can lend money to its U.S. subsidiary. Then the U.S. subsidiary of course has to pay interest on the loan, and of course it can deduct that interest off its taxes. So this deal can end up lowering the taxes that Burger King will pay both on its domestic earnings and on the money it makes in other countries.

INSKEEP: Is this purely an on-paper change that saves them countless millions of dollars? Is the CEO actually going to move to Canada, for example, or are they going to continue to run the company out of Florida and just pay - just pay less taxes?

ZARROLI: Well, they say that their headquarters is going to be in Canada and usually...

INSKEEP: But are the executives moving, or is that not known?

ZARROLI: You know, they haven't said.


ZARROLI: But this deal is slightly different I think in - than a lot of inversions. In most inversions, the executives don't move. I mean, the company essentially stays in the United States, and the move is just on paper. This one appears to be a little bit different because they're actually - they say they're actually moving their headquarters to Canada.

INSKEEP: Ah, they say that, so we may find out some executives move - details yet to come. Is Burger King prepared for some blowback on this? President Obama has criticized these tax inversion deals. Some companies have found them a little unpalatable. What is Burger King saying about that side of it?

ZARROLI: Well, yeah, there's that - President Obama says he - that Congress should do something about this. Unfortunately, in the current political environment, there isn't a lot Congress can do. You know, I think what we can say is the deal is going to intensify the debate over inversions.

You know, most of the companies that have done this so far are not really that well-known to the public. You know, a lot of them have been pharmaceutical companies. But Burger King is, so I think this is going to going to get a lot more attention than the other deals. And I think it will have the potential anyway to really intensify the debate over inversions.

INSKEEP: And in a few seconds, Warren Buffett is involved for $3 billion here?

ZARROLI: Yeah. He won't have any role in the company. He's just financing it. He likes the company that owns Burger King, 3G Capital.

INSKEEP: OK, Jim, thanks very much.

ZARROLI: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Jim Zarroli with confirmation of news today that Burger King plans to buy Tim Hortons and move its corporate headquarters to Canada. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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