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McDonald's to swap London for Geneva

FAST food giant McDonald&rsquo;s yesterday confirmed it was joining the growing list of multinational companies to have quit the UK and relocate their European headquarters.<br /><br />The US chain, which runs 1,200 restaurants&nbsp; in Britain, plans to move from its current headquarters in East Finchley, north London, to Geneva by the end of the year.<br /><br />McDonald&rsquo;s joins the exodus of US firms which have shifted their European operations to Switzerland including food manufacturer Kraft, Procter &amp; Gamble, Colgate Palmolive and Yahoo.<br /><br />The move comes alongside a report that offshore tax jurisdictions within easy reach of Britain are bucking the European property market slump. A survey out today from international offshore tax firm the Sovereign Group shows a surge in demand from wealthy Britons and companies fleeing high UK tax rates has boosted offshore property prices. <br /><br />Guy Hands, the British financier worth an estimated &pound;250m, recently&nbsp; jumped ship to Guernsey following changes to the UK&rsquo;s corporate and personal tax system. And City A.M. revealed in April that drug company Shire was moving to Dublin, following Sir Martin Sorrell&rsquo;s media group WPP which said last September it was going in a bid to escape higher taxes.<br /><br />The companies have been exiting the UK in search of more favourable tax regimes since changes to the taxation of foreign profits, announced in this year&rsquo;s Budget, that mean firms would pay taxes twice on dividends earned on intellectual property rights abroad.<br /><br />But McDonald&rsquo;s insists that it still expects its annual tax rate to remain between 29 per cent and 31 per cent.<br />Seventy per cent of the group&rsquo;s European outlets are run by franchisees, in return for intellectual property rights which allow them to stock, produce and sell the global burger brand.