Shares in McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) Ltd. plunged Tuesday after the Nikkei Asian Review reported that the American fast food chain was looking for investors to offload its stake in the Japanese unit. McDonald’s Corp., the U.S. parent company, is reportedly looking to gain about 100 billion yen ($825 million) and has asked potential buyers to respond by mid-January.
A McDonald's executive recently traveled to Japan to talk with at least five potential buyers, including trading houses and investment funds, about selling 15 to 33 percent of the Japanese unit's outstanding shares, Nikkei reported, without citing the source of the information.
Shares of McDonald's (Japan) fell about 8 percent in afternoon trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange — the sharpest intraday drop since March 2011 — following the news. The Japanese unit was valued at $3.23 billion as of Monday's close, according to Reuters.
McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, owns nearly half of the Japanese arm.
In April, the Japanese unit forecast a loss of 38 billion yen ($313.4 million) for the year as a string of safety scandals kept customers away. Sales suffered after a major Chinese supplier of chicken was found using expired meat last year, and again in January when customers complained of finding foreign objects in their food, including a tooth.
The parent company's tax affairs came under scrutiny in December after the European Union reportedly began an investigation into its fiscal arrangements with Luxembourg.
"McDonald’s complies with all tax laws and rules in Europe and pays a significant amount of corporate income tax," Becca Hary, a spokeswoman for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, reportedly said in an emailed statement earlier this month. "While we have not been notified by the European Commission, we are confident that should an inquiry occur, it would be resolved favorably."