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Burger King Going Public

Ian Wyatt

Eighteen months after being bought out by private investment firm 3G Capital, Burger King Worldwide Holdings has decided to go public again.

The fast-food chain’s return to the stock market was made possible by Justice Holdings (JUSH.L), a U.K.-based special purpose acquisition company owned by billionaire William Ackman. Burger King and Justice Holdings will merge after Justice Holdings pays 3G Capital $1.4 billion for the acquisition – less than half the $3.3 billion 3G Capital paid when it bought out Burger King and took it private in September 2010.

The discrepancy in payments is because 3G Capital will remain the largest Burger King shareholder with a 71% stake. Justice Holdings will own the remaining 29%.

But the real news here is that Burger King will again be a publicly traded company. It couldn’t be coming at a better time for the Home of the Whopper. Long recognized as the second-largest fast food chain in the world behind McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD), Burger King has apparently been overtaken by Wendy’s (Nasdaq: WEN) for the No. 2 spot in the burger joint hierarchy.

Wendy’s has caught up by offering higher-end menu items such as its Apple Pecan Chicken Salad and Asiago Ranch Chicken Club. Burger King is just now beginning to diversify its menu to respond to the demand for healthier, artisanal choices in a post-Fast Food Nation world. Salads, mango smoothies and grilled-chicken wraps are among the lower-calorie options Burger King recently added to its menu.

Perhaps the diversified menu combined with being a publicly traded stock again will be enough to help Burger King reclaim its spot behind McDonald’s at No. 2. Surely that’s what the Burger King brass is hoping for. It’s unlikely that the timing of the company’s return to the stock market is a coincidence, coming just weeks after Wendy’s officially passed it by.

Burger King will reassume its former BKC ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange once the deal between Justice and 3G Capital is finalized. Justice, meanwhile, will cease trading on the London Stock Exchange.