Candy Crush maker King Digital Entertainment was founded in Sweden but is headquartered in London and about to list in New York, as it tries to make the most of an intricate quilt of patent, tax and regulatory oversight

King’s Realm Spans Across Continents

Candy Crush Maker’s Global Footprint Helps It Navigate Web of Patent, Tax and Regulatory Issues

AMIR MIZROCH

March 12, 2014 1:56 p.m. ET

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LONDON—It’s good to be King, but the road to the throne can be complicated.

Game maker King Digital Entertainment PLC is planning to start trading this month on the New York Stock Exchange—valuing itself Wednesday at as much as $7.6 billion after it set a price range for its initial public offering.

The creator of the popular “Candy Crush Saga” game was founded in Sweden, but incorporated under the laws of England and Wales. Late last year, its parent registered in Ireland as a public limited-liability company, while King has game-development studios in London, Bucharest, Barcelona, Berlin, and San Francisco. Its CEO works from London but some board meetings are held in Malta.

The global corporate spider web underscores efforts by tech executives to make the most of the intricate quilt of patent, tax and regulatory oversight that comes with making digital goods that can be downloaded instantly—and generate revenue—anywhere in the world. But for King, some of the corporate sprawl also reflects a culture of encouraging autonomous game-development centers across Europe.

Although many of King’s most popular games rely on the same basic premise—matching up rows of icons or solving puzzles—they’ve been developed by small teams in separate locales, with those offices assuming a sense of ownership over them. Stockholm’s studio created “Candy Crush Saga,” while Malmo, Sweden, has control of “Pet Rescue Saga.”

King opened its 25,000-square-foot London office in the trendy Soho neighborhood in early 2013. Chief Executive Riccardo Zacconi works out of the office, giving London some claim to being the company’s corporate headquarters. There is also a growing game-development studio here: The London team developed “Farm Heroes Saga.”

The company dates back to 2002, when it operated as Midasplayer.com. It rebranded as King two years later. In addition to Sweden and the U.K., the company will continue to keep at least four separate entities in Malta after it goes public, according to a securities filings. King had 665 employees world-wide at the end of last year, according to the filing.

Its registration in late 2013 in Dublin could give it the ability to adhere to certain “home country” corporate governance practices in lieu of certain NYSE listing requirements, King said in a February filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing its intention to list shares.

For example, under Irish law, there is no requirement for equity compensation plans to be approved by shareholder resolution, and the company won’t be subject to U.S. proxy rules, it said.

King denied its recent Irish affiliation would reduce its tax burden. “King is a global company and complies with all applicable tax regulations in each country where we operate,” a company spokeswoman said. “Like any other company, we pay corporate tax and being an Irish company doesn’t affect our tax rate.”

King also opened subsidiaries in Japan, Delaware and Germany, all organized and operated according to the laws of their country of incorporation.

Its decision to list in New York, meanwhile, underscores a reality of today’s startup boom: Entrepreneurs are popping up everywhere, but the best place to find big investors is still the U.S.

“In Europe, it doesn’t matter how good you are,” said Simon Cook, chief executive of London-based venture-capital firm DFJ Esprit. Investors aren’t plentiful enough to feed growth, he says: “The money isn’t available yet.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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