September 22, 2015 / 2:15 AM / in 2 years

Silver Wheaton sees Canada tax verdict taking at least two years

DENVER (Reuters) - Believing it has a strong case, Silver Wheaton Corp SLW.TO is keen to get its disagreement with Canada’s tax authorities to court as soon as possible but any resolution is at least two years away, its chief executive said on Monday.

Any day now the Vancouver-based mining financing company expects to receive a letter of assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency, which in July said it might tax about C$715 million ($539.79 million) of income Silver Wheaton earned outside Canada.

If the CRA presses ahead with its case, which the market expects it will, Silver Wheaton will have to deposit half the disputed tax amount plus interest and penalties - equal to roughly $100 million - with the agency while it pursues a defense.

“We’re obviously working as hard as we can to move this forward as fast as we can but we are only half of the equation,” Silver Wheaton CEO Randy Smallwood said in an interview.

Instead of appealing the assessment, Silver Wheaton prefers to take its case directly to Canada’s tax court, a faster route to an outcome.

“The best case is that it goes into discovery 2016 or 2017. Then we get a court date with possible resolution end 2017-2018,” Smallwood said on the sidelines of the Denver Gold Forum.

Although he is confident the court will back Silver Wheaton, if not the company may consider moving its headquarters from Canada to a more favorable tax jurisdiction.

“Obviously if laws change, if it gets to the point that Canada doesn’t want us, then that is always an option,” he said.

SHARE ISSUE

Silver Wheaton’s stock has fallen as much as 33 percent since the proposed tax charge was announced on July 7, leading the company last week to announce a share buyback of up to 5 percent of its stock.

The proposed buyback could reduce the number of mine financing transactions that Silver Wheaton does, Smallwood said. The company does so-called “streaming” deals, which sees it paying miners funds upfront in return for buying a percentage of their future production.

“What we have to balance is assessing new acquisitions versus buying back our shares... It’s not an easy decision right now. Our shares are valued so low that maybe that’s the best way to deliver growth for our shareholders,” he said.

At Silver Wheaton’s current stock price of C$16.15, a 5 percent share buyback would cost around C$320 million.

($1 = 1.3246 Canadian dollars)

(This version of the story corrects to show that the amount Silver Wheaton will have to deposit with revenue agency would be equal to roughly $100 million, not that it would have to deposit $200 million to $250 million, in the third paragraph)

Editing by Andrew Hay

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