Ackman Loads Up on Burger King (BKW)

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In an SEC filing dated today, Pershing Square Capital Management L.P. chief William Ackman revealed ownership of 41,922,908 shares of newly public Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW). Ackman is a well-known hedge fund manager and activist investor. Burger King returned to the public markets yesterday, selling shares at $14.50 and rising by more than 6% to close at $15.40.

Ackman’s ownership share of Burger King totals 12% of the outstanding 349,908,456 shares. Burger King only sold a total of 16% of its outstanding shares to the public, and Ackman scooped up about 75% of the shares on offer. The public offering was a complex deal that required the fast-food operator’s majority owner, 3G Capital, to agree to holding on to its 71% stake in Burger King for at least six months.

The big question, of course, is what will Ackman do in six months and one day? The fact that Burger King’s shares are up nearly another 4% today indicates that investors think he’ll make a play for an even bigger stake, in the process gaining board seats, and, perhaps, quashing the company’s aggressive expansion plans in order to return more to shareholders.

In any event, shares are trading at $15.98 about 90 minutes or so before closing today.

Paul Ausick