Spanish bank considers abandoning Catalonia

BARCELONA/MADRID: Spain’s fifth-largest bank, Sabadell, will consider whether to shift its headquarters away from Catalonia in the first major sign that the wealthy region’s push for independence from Spain could scare away big business. “Banco Sabadell’s board is meeting today in extraordinary session to study a possible change of headquarters,” the bank said in a statement to the stock market, confirming what a source familiar with the matter had said earlier.
Catalonia-based newspaper La Vanguardia reported that Sabadell was considering moving its headquarters to either Alicante or Madrid.
Catalonia’s parliament is set to declare independence on Monday after going ahead with a banned referendum marred by violence last weekend.
The Sabadell board meeting comes as concerns show in financial markets that secession would rock the euro zone’s fourth-biggest economy, dealing a heavy blow to Spain’s own finances and sending the Catalan economy into a tailspin.
Catalonia is a centre of industry and tourism that accounts for one-fifth of Spain’s economy, a production base for major multi-nationals from Volkswagen to Nestle, and home to Europe’s fastest-growing sea port.
Sabadell shares rose sharply on news of the possible move.
News earlier this week that two small listed Catalan firms, Eurona Wireless Telecom and Oryzon Genomics, had decided to shift their head offices had a similar impact on their share prices. Both declined to say whether they were responding to Sunday’s vote.
Shares in Sabadell and another Catalonia-based bank, Caixabank, which is Spain’s third largest lender by market capitalisation, were pummelled earlier in the week because of the political unrest in the northeastern region.
The Catalonia crisis has hurt Spanish bond and stock markets. The nation’s borrowing costs hit a seven-month high on Thursday, though investors showed solid interest in a government bond auction.
Many Spanish business leaders and foreign companies with operations in Catalonia have expressed concern this week.
“As a businessman, as a Spaniard and as a person, I am very worried and I am scared by what’s going on (in Catalonia),” said Juan Roig, chairman of Spain’s biggest food retailer Mercadona. — Reuters