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FILE - In this Wednesday, July 22, 2009, file photo, a Tim Hortons coffee cup is seen in New York. The Canadian doughnut chain moved into 12 former Dunkin Donut locations earlier in the month, bringing new blood to the doughnut war in America's most competitive market. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Fast food border crossing

Burger King risks criticism for planned Canada move

Some Burger King customers are finding it hard to swallow that the home of the Whopper could move to Canada.

Investors seemed to welcome the announcement by Burger King late Sunday that it was in talks to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create the world's third-largest fast-food restaurant company. The news pushed shares of both companies up more than 20 percent.

In February, Tim Hortons announced it would expand over the next five years, including 15 stores in Fort Wayne. Spokeswoman Olga Petrycki on Monday would not say how a merger with Burger King would affect those plans.

But customers were already voicing their discontent with the 60-year-old hamburger chain because of its plans to move its corporate headquarters from Miami to Canada in a deal that could lower the company's taxes. By Monday afternoon, Burger King's Facebook page had more than 1,000 mostly negative comments about the potential deal.

Shawn Simpson, who hadn't heard of the talks until approached by a reporter while he was at a Burger King in New York City on Monday afternoon, said he didn't like the idea of the company paying its taxes to another country.

“For them to take their headquarters and move it across the border is a negative for me,” said Simpson, 44, who was ordering a Double Whopper and onion rings. “It's an American brand.”

A representative for Burger King, Miguel Piedra, said the comments on Burger King's Facebook page represent a small fraction of the company's more than 7 million followers on the social media site.

Burger King isn't the first company to face fallout over a tax inversion, which is when a company acquires a business in another country, then moves its headquarters there.

Big U.S. companies, including pharmaceutical businesses AbbVie and Valeant Pharmaceuticals, recently have pursued tax inversions to cut their costs. Earlier this month, Walgreen abandoned plans to pursue a tax inversion after the plan was met with criticism.

Many Burger King customers who go to the chain for convenience may not care enough about the move to change their eating habits, said Jonathan Maze, editor of Restaurant Finance Monitor, which tracks the industry.

“It's going to irritate people, but basically it's a paper move,” he said.

It's not clear exactly how much a combination with Tim Hortons would reduce Burger King's tax costs. A recent report by KPMG found that total tax costs in Canada are 46.4 percent lower than in the United States.

Both companies cautioned there was no guarantee a deal would happen.

But each could benefit from the deal, which they say would create a new holding company with 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries and about $22 billion in sales.

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