• 6 October 2017
  • From the section Business

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Spain is easing its rules to allow companies to more easily shift their headquarters out of Catalonia.

Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos said laws to help firms redomicile was discussed on Friday with the Socialist Party and Ciudadanos.

Businesses are uneasy amid heightened political tensions in the region over whether it should separate from Spain.

Barcelona-based bank Sabadell said on Thursday it will move its legal base from Catalonia.

Its headquarters and employees will remain in Barcelona.

The move, by the economy ministry, could hit Catalonia’s finances as it considers declaring independence, possibly as soon as Monday.

The board of CaixaBank is meeting today to consider a similar move, Reuters reported.

Caixa is Spain’s third-largest bank and accounts for about half of Catalonia’s banking sector.

Sabadell said: “Banco Sabadell has adopted this decision in order to protect the interests of our customers, shareholders and employees.”

It went on to say it it wanted to operate “under the supervision of the European Central Bank and the regulations of the European Banking Authority”, something that would be removed were Catalonia to declare independence.

The European Union has said it will not recognise an independent Catalonia, which would mean the region would not be subject to EU rules nor protection.

Shares in Sabadell, the second-biggest bank in Catalonia and the fifth largest in Spain, have fallen 10% this week as the political crisis between Catalonia and Madrid deepened.

Sabadell bought TSB, the bank formerly owned by Lloyds, for £1.7bn in 2015.

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Reuters

The decree would allow CaixaBank to transfer its legal and tax base without needing to hold a shareholders’ meeting as stated in its statutes.

Caixa declined to comment.

Catalonia accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, with factories for companies including Volkswagen and Nestle based there, as well as containing Europe’s fastest-growing sea port of Barcelona.

Volkswagen briefly stopped production on one line at its Seat plant in Catalonia when protests disrupted parts supply. Stoppages also affected production at Nestle’s instant coffee plant in Girona.

The Catalan business lobby Cercle d’Economia said it was extremely concerned by the prospect of Catalonia declaring independence and called for leaders from both sides to hold talks.

Dutch paint maker Akzo Nobel, which has several plants in Catalonia, said it was monitoring developments.

Spain’s constitutional court has suspended next Monday’s session of the Catalan parliament, in a bid to pre-empt a possible push for independence.

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