CaixaBank: Spain's third largest bank joins exodus from Catalonia

After Banco Sabadell’s shock move to Alicante, Caixa announces shift to Valencia amid post-independence vote uncertainty

Spain’s third largest bank is to move its registered office from Catalonia in the latest fallout for businesses from the political tensions in Spain.

The announcement by CaixaBank that it was shifting its legal base to Valencia came hours after the Catalan government set up a crisis committee in an effort to halt the threatened haemorrhage of business out of the region if it goes ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

The local economics minister Santi Vila is heading the committee after secessionists were rocked by the news that Banco Sabadell had decided to relocate its headquarters to Alicante.

Executives of Caixa had met on Friday to discuss its response to the crisis. In a statement after the markets had closed they said the decision was needed “in light of the current political and social situation in Catalonia”.

The Spanish government is expected to use a royal decree to change the law to facilitate the relocation of Catalan companies.

The law was changed in 2015 to make it easier for businesses to relocate, removing the need for the approval of a majority of shareholders. However, CaixaBank’s statutes have not been modified to conform with the 2015 changes and the new decree is said to be made to measure for the bank, which is reported to be experiencing a flight of depositors before Monday’s projected UDI.

“The government is working on a legal modification, so that in an emergency any company can move its headquarters without consulting its shareholders,” a finance ministry source told Reuters.

The situation is less urgent for non-banking businesses that do not face the risk of a flight of capital. Nevertheless, major firms such as Gas Natural Fenosa and the infrastructure business Abertis are also looking at alternatives.

Abertis’ principal asset in Catalonia is the toll roads, which it runs but which are owned by the Catalan government.

Large property companies with a lot of exposure in Catalonia have seen their share prices slump. Merlin Properties and Colonial fell by 5.3% and 6.4% respectively.

Smaller companies that have already relocated, such as the biotech firm Oryzon and the telecommunications business Eurona, have seen their share price rise after the move. Naturhouse is another firm that recently abandoned Barcelona for Madrid.

Christopher Dottie, president of the British chamber of commerce in Spain, said UK companies were monitoring events closely because they did not want to embark on new projects without knowing what the future held.

They were aware that any separation implied costs, he said, and they would opt for whichever involved the least impact.

Philippe Saman, head of the French chamber of commerce in Barcelona, said it had received numerous inquiries from businesses based in Catalonia.

“Just about any scenario is viable except being outside the European Union,” he said.


Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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