Paris Tries Letters, Berlin Billboards in London Jobs Quest

  • France’s Valls says non-domicile tax status to be extended
  • Dublin readies ad campaign while Milan seeks regulator

The Paris region is sending letters to British executives. German politicians have paid for billboards in London to promote Berlin. Dublin is planning an advertising campaign, and Milan wants to be home to Europe’s bank regulator.

Barely two weeks after the U.K. voted to exit the European Union, major cities from across the bloc’s remaining 27 nations are intensifying their efforts to win business from London, long the dominant center of finance in the region.

“We must remain elegant: Britain is a great nation and our friend,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a gathering of financiers in Paris Wednesday. “But let’s not be naive. We’re in a competition and we need to be of service to companies and their employees.”

The remarks underline a widely held view that, whether or not businesses and executives are ready to move, governments have to try to lure them or risk seeing jobs go elsewhere. In the markets, the slide in the pound to a fresh 31-year low of $1.28 reflects pessimism about the U.K.’s short-term prospects.

Dublin’s Bid

In Dublin, the Irish are gearing up for an advertising drive in Europe and the U.S. The campaign won’t explicitly refer to Brexit, but will underline the country’s advantages, such as the fact that business there is done in English.

“An influx of city bankers would be a nice issue to be dealing with,” Martin Shanahan, head of IDA Ireland, the state agency that seeks foreign investment, told reporters in Dublin. “We will fight Ireland’s corner as hard as we can.”

The IDA had pitched Ireland to companies including Standard Chartered Plc even before Britain’s June 23 referendum, offering them help with contingency planning. Within hours of the result, it was in contact again, Shanahan said, adding it had seen heightened levels of activity since the vote. More than 1,200 foreign companies, including State Street Corp., Apple Inc and Citigroup Inc operate in Ireland already.

Paris, Berlin Beckon

Similarly, the Paris region began preparing its effort long before the British went to the polls. Valerie Pecresse, who heads the regional government, sent letters to 4,000 executives at companies of all sizes on June 24, extolling the advantages of the French capital. Listing everything from location and infrastructure to a well-trained workforce and world-class services, her letter makes a case for them to move operations there.

In London’s financial district on Tuesday a truck was spotted carrying a billboard with the words “Dear start-ups, Keep calm and move to Berlin.” French and German politicians have sparred over whether Frankfurt or Paris should take over London’s euro-clearing business.

Paris Europlace, a lobby for the French financial industry, used its annual conference Wednesday to lay out the case for Paris over its competitors.

Valls Speaks

In a first for a French premier, Valls appeared at the group’s banquet lunch, taking the stage with Pecresse and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Valls promised bankers a warm welcome and said he plans to extend France’s special tax regime for foreigners to apply for eight years from their arrival from five currently. Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau pledged at the conference that all bank license applications from other EU member states will be processed swiftly.

France’s smaller neighbor, Luxembourg, this month started a wide-spread promotional campaign wooing people from abroad to come and “make your career in Luxembourg’s financial industry.”

With a population of about 550,000, Luxembourg has become the EU’s richest nation in less than a century and is today the European base of multinationals such as Inc. and Microsoft’s Skype, and the world’s second-biggest fund market after the U.S.

Italian Pitch

“Imagine this,” says the country’s promotional agency, Luxembourg for Finance, in a brochure published July 1, highlighting the nation’s multi-culturalism, high salaries, and attractive tax regime. “You have just received your paycheck. You’re happy to know that you get to keep more of your gross income than you would for instance in the U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium…”

In Italy, as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi struggles to find a solution to Italy’s banking crisis, the city of Milan is seeking to become the new home of the European Banking Authority. Mayor Giuseppe Sala is meeting the agency’s chairman, Andrea Enria, in London Wednesday. Sala also will pitch Milan as the new home of the European Medicines Agency -- led by an Italian -- as part of his effort to lure European bodies now based in London.

Spain, whose banking system were given a European bailout in 2012, is also offering to host the EBA and other agencies now based in the U.K. “Spain is in an optimal situation to bid,” acting Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Friday.

Back in Paris, Pecresse estimates that about 30,000 financial sector jobs are up for grabs because of Brexit, with approximately 30,000 more possible posts to be won in other industries. For Pecresse, Paris’s global size and stature should be touted as advantages despite France’s reputation for high taxes and heavy regulation.

“We’re the only truly global city seeking this business,” she said in the interview. “Frankfurt doesn’t have our depth, Dublin is on Europe’s periphery.”

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