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Burger King stock returns to the market

Burger King returns to the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, two years after being taken private by owner 3G Capital. Only 16 percent of Burger King shares will be available for trading once the company returns to public life.

By Candice ChoiAP Food industry writer / June 20, 2012

In this 2010 file photo, patrons enjoy a meal at a Burger King in Springfield, Ill. After two years under private control, Burger King stock is going public and returning to the New York Stock Exchange Wedensday, June 20, 2012.

Seth Perlman/AP/File

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New York

Burger King will return to the New York Stock Exchange after the market opens Wednesday.

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The world's No. 2 hamburger chain last traded as a public company between 2006 and 2010. The company was then purchased and taken private by investment firm 3G Capital, which has been overhauling the chain's operations.

Burger King's listing on the exchange under the ticker "BKW" won't be through an initial public offering, however. 3G Capital announced an unusual deal in April to sell a minority stake to Justice Holdings, a London-based entity that was specifically set up to invest in another company. 3G Capital received $1.4 billion in exchange and retains a 71 percent stake in the company.

Under the deal, Justice was to suspend trading on the London Stock Exchange once the deal was complete and emerge as Burger King Worldwide Inc. on the New York Stock Exchange.

Miguel Piedra, a Burger King spokesman, said only 16 percent of shares will be available to retail investors when the stock begins trading again on the Big Board. Justice shares have been trading over the counter for $16 per share, he said.

Among Justice's founders are Bill Ackman, an activist investor and founder of Pershing Square Capital Management; Martin Franklin, founder and executive chairman of consumer products company Jarden Corp.; Alan Parker, former CEO of Whitbread PLC, the United Kingdom's largest hotel and restaurant company; and investor Nicolas Berggruen.

Franklin and Parker will join Burger King's board as part of the deal. 3G Capital has said that no other changes will be made to the senior leadership and that the company will continue its focus on turning around the brand.

As the fast-food market becomes increasingly crowded at home, Burger King like other companies has been focusing on expansion overseas. This month, the Miami-based chain announced plans to open hundreds of new restaurants in Russia and 1,000 in China over the next several years. That's in addition to similar expansion plans for Brazil.

In the past year, 80 percent of new store openings were in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Back in the U.S., Burger King in April launched its biggest menu expansion ever. The chain is abandoning its strategy of courting young men and going after a broader customer base of moms and families with items such as fruit smoothies and specialty salads.

Burger King has more than 12,500 restaurants worldwide, compared with 33,000 for McDonald's Corp.

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