Stockholm Pounces on Brexit Scenario With Alternative Hub

  • Swedish businesses lay out response plans in case of `Brexit'
  • U.K. exit scenario would hurt appeal of London for businesses

Swedish businesses are preparing for a British exit from the European Union, hoping a so-called Brexit will help Stockholm lure more companies and build its status as a global business hub.

While a Brexit “would be devastating on many levels,” both for the U.K. and countries like Sweden, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce said it also sees opportunities should such an event play out.

“We are convinced that companies with headquarters in the U.K. would have an interest in reviewing where they locate their operations in case the referendum leads the country away from the EU,” Chief Executive Officer Maria Rankka and chief economist Andreas Hatzigeorgiou said in an e-mailed statement. “Sweden and Stockholm would then be an attractive alternative to the U.K. and London.”

BREXIT Watch

"It’s in our direct interest that Britain remains part of the EU. The democratic process and the will of the British people must be respected,” they said. “However, Sweden and Stockholm cannot afford to sit back and simply hope for the best.”

Spotify’s Letter

But Stockholm’s goal of winning international recognition as a haven for commerce has lately been challenged by some of its most prominent businesses. The Swedish capital, home to global brands such as Hennes & Mauritz AB, Ericsson AB and Electrolux AB, faces an acute housing shortage that has spurred complaints from some high-profile executives who argue it’s too difficult for employees to find a home there.

Music-streaming service Spotify Ltd. said in an open letter to Sweden’s government earlier this week that the country must address obstacles such as its housing shortage if the company is to continue hiring at home.

“In coming years, we may hire thousands of people,” Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon wrote in the letter. “Our success is completely dependent on our ability to attract the best talent from all over the world. If we can remove the obstacles Sweden has compared with other countries we will be able to hire in Stockholm and Gothenburg rather than moving parts of the operations to other countries.”

According to the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the Swedish capital is currently home to the headquarters of nine global businesses, ranking it eighth worldwide. The U.K. hosts 21 global headquarters.

To climb the ladder, Stockholm will probably need to fix its housing shortage. In addition to building more homes, especially rental apartments, the Spotify founders urged Sweden to improve its education system to focus more on programming and to relax corporate ownership rules for employees.

“We love Sweden and believe that this is the best environment for us, but at the same time, we cannot spirit away the political obstacles that exist,” Ek and Lorentzon said.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngaard says she is addressing Spotify’s concerns. The city completed the construction of more than 6,000 new apartments last year and started building almost as many new ones, including many rental apartments, she said.

The mayor also said there are plans to add programming on the curriculum of the capital’s schools, "a project that started partly as a result of a meeting I had with Spotify,” Wanngaard said.

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