Corporate Spending Risks Paralysis If Brexit Prevails, S&P Says

A U.K. vote to leave the European Union could “paralyze” capital investment in companies doing business in Britain after the June 23 referendum, S&P Global Ratings said.

A “leave” vote would cut the value of the pound and increase financial-market volatility immediately after the referendum, the agency said in a report Wednesday. Over the longer term, investment in U.K. companies and European businesses with exposure to Britain could suffer during the period -- “potentially running to many years” -- in which the U.K. would have to renegotiate trade treaties, S&P said.

“A lack of investment during this period would likely erode the competitive position of companies in certain industries and negatively affect their revenue and profitability,” S&P said. “We see this as a concern, particularly given the low-growth economic environment currently prevalent in parts of Europe.”

Industries such as housing, aerospace, auto-making, chemicals, metals, mining and oil, which are reliant on foreign investment, stand to be among the hardest hit, S&P said, while areas like the media, business services, technology, forest products and packaging would be more insulated.

Executives of Siemens AG, Airbus Group SE and GKN Plc were set to warn Wednesday that a vote to leave the EU would endanger investment and manufacturing employment. S&P previously warned that a “Brexit” vote could cause a downgrade in the U.K.’s sovereign debt ratings.

Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has publicly supported the campaign to keep the U.K. in the EU.