EUROPE

Spain: Banks flee Catalonia amid political instability

CaixaBank announces it will relocate its headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia

Anadolu Agency

CaixaBank, Spain’s third largest bank, announced on Friday that it will relocate its corporate headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia, less than a week after the region’s controversial independence vote.

“The decision is to protect the interest of clients, shareholders and employees, guaranteeing the bank’s permanence in the Eurozone and under the supervision of the Central European Bank,” said the bank, which has 15.8 million clients, in an official statement.

Although the independence referendum was considered illegal by Spain’s central government, nearly 2.3 million Catalans voted (43 percent of the total electorate), of which 90 percent voted in favor of separating from Spain and creating a Catalan Republic, according to official results released by the Catalan government on Friday. A unilateral declaration of independence is expected in the coming weeks.

However Spain insists this is impossible and illegal. Earlier on Friday, Spain’s government passed legislation which made it easier for companies to leave Catalonia. Within hours, CaixaBank took advantage and announced the relocation.Sabadell, another major Spanish bank, also decided to relocate to Alicante on Thursday, as have other companies including Spanish utility company Gas Natural which has decided to move its legal base to Madrid. Earlier on Friday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned that the political tension could affect Spain’s economy.

“The outlook for the Spanish economy is currently strong. However, prolonged tensions and uncertainty related to Catalonia could weigh on confidence and investment decisions,” said IMF mission chief in Spain, Andrea Schaechter, in an interview with Spanish news agency Efe.

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