Panasonic to move European HQ in London to Netherlands over Brexit concerns
Panasonic plans to move its European headquarters from Britain to the Netherlands later this year over concerns about potential tax issues related to Brexit.
The Japanese company's move is the latest sign of concern from the business community over the protracted Brexit negotiations.
"We will move our European headquarters to the Netherlands," a spokeswoman for the firm told Agence France-Presse, confirming a report in the Nikkei business daily about the electronics giant's decision.
Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe, told the Nikkei that the headquarters would move from outside London to Amsterdam in October.
The decision was sparked by fears that Japan could treat Britain as a tax haven after Brexit if London decides to lower its corporate tax rate in a bid to attract businesses, he said.
If Japan made the designation, Panasonic could face back taxes levied by Tokyo.
Abadie told the newspaper that Panasonic had been considering a move for the past 15 months, with concerns about barriers to the flow of people and goods also a factor in the decision to move.
Of the 20 to 30 people in the London office, around 10 to 20 employees dealing with auditing and financial operations would move. Investor relations staff would stay put, the newspaper said.
Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019, in a process that has sparked uncertainty in the business sector and concern about the consequences for the country's economy.
In June, plane-maker Airbus – which employs about 15,000 staff directly in Britain – caused a stir by warning it could pull out of the UK if Britain bows out of the EU without a trade deal.
Several Japanese firms including megabank MUFG, Nomura Holdings, Daiwa Securities and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group have said they are planning to move their main EU bases out of London.
In February, Koji Tsuruoka, Japan's ambassador to the UK, said Brexit was a high stakes issue and that no company would be able to stay in the UK if it was not profitable.
"If there is no profitability of continuing operations in the UK - not Japanese only - no private company can continue operations. So it is as simple as that," he said.
Asked about the threat to Japanese companies if the UK did not secure a frictionless trade deal with the EU after Brexit, he added: "This is all high stakes that all of us, I think, need to keep in mind."
Theresa May told Japanese business leaders at the time that Brexit would allow the UK to strike a free trade deal with Japan.
She told bosses, including from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, and Honda, that Brexit was "no small undertaking" and that the government's modern industrial strategy made the UK "more attractive".