* Expects to distribute $700 mln-$1.1 bln earnings to shareholders
* Expects to elect REIT status by 2015
* Shares hit life high
Sept 13 (Reuters) - Data center operator Equinix Inc said its board approved a plan to convert into a real estate investment trust (REIT), joining a string of technology companies looking to save on tax through the structure.
Shares of the company rose 13.6 percent to a record high of $212 in morning trade on Thursday on the Nasdaq.
"We have already seen several of our peers in the data center industry operate under a REIT structure, and we believe that this tax-efficient structure will enhance shareholder value and enable us to be even more competitive," Chief Executive Steve Smith said.
Rival CyrusOne Inc, owned by telecom services company Cincinnati Bell Inc, filed for an IPO last month and said it plans to structure itself as a REIT, while document storage operator Iron Mountain Inc announced its REIT plans in June.
Reuters reported in July that Equinix was giving serious thought to converting into a real estate investment trust.
Equinix, whose clients include Salesforce.com Inc, Google Inc and Facebook Inc, expects to elect the REIT status for its taxable year beginning Jan. 1, 2015, if the conversion is successful.
Companies with large real estate assets are increasingly looking at a REIT structure as it helps reduce tax burden on their rental income. Investors also benefit as REITs are required to distribute at least 90 percent of their profits as dividends.
Equinix expects to file a private letter ruling (PLR) request with the Internal Revenue Service by the end of 2012. A PLR seeks guidance over tax liability during complex transactions.
It expects to distribute accumulated earnings and profit of between $700 million and $1.1 billion to shareholders on receiving a favorable PLR. The distribution will be in the form of up to 20 percent in cash and at least 80 percent in stock.
Equinix announced the sale of 16 of its data centers to an investment group for about $75 million earlier this month, exiting nine markets in the United States.