Amazon Expands U.K. Headquarters as Brexit Leads Bankers to Exit

  • Amazon to occupy additional 4 stories in new London office
  • Company plans to hire 450 R&D staff for Prime Video service

Tech Firms Expand Presence in U.K.

Amazon.com Inc. is expanding the size of its new U.K. headquarters to support the growth of its Prime Video service in Europe.

The world’s largest online retailer will occupy the entire 15 floors of the newly constructed tower on the edge of the City of London, after initially having planned to only take 11. The additional space will house 450 new research and development recruits for its on-demand movie service.

“The U.K. is a fantastic place to find talent and we feel good about building a global R&D center here," Doug Gurr, head of Amazon’s U.K. business, said at the opening of the site. “We’re very confident we’ll be able to recruit everyone we need."

Amazon joins a list of large U.S. tech firms, including Snap Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google, in doubling down on London expansion plans ahead of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. As investment banks plot relocating some operations away from the City of London, landlords are overhauling workspace historically occupied by financial firms in a bid to attract tech companies.

Amazon is expanding its space in the new building, which features a roof garden and surrounded by new cafes and restaurants, amid nervousness in the property market created by uncertainty over the nature of the U.K.’s divorce from the EU. London office vacancies climbed to 5.8 percent at the end of the first quarter from 3.9 percent a year earlier, the biggest increase since 2009, according to Deloitte LLP.

On-Demand

Amazon made Prime Video available as a standalone service in April last year as part of its strategy of retaining customers by acquiring the rights to movies and TV shows, or producing them on its own. “Manchester by the Sea,” a family tragedy set in Massachusetts and produced by Amazon, won two Academy Awards this year. The release day of “The Grand Tour,” a car-based entertainment show featuring the former stars of BBC’s Top Gear, prompted more Amazon Prime signups than any day outside of a special sale event.

The U.K. is among Amazon’s largest international markets with more than 22,000 full-time staff based in the country. Amazon plans to have at least 24,000 by the end of the year, double the number it had at the end of 2015.

The Seattle-based company is also testing its drone delivery services in the U.K. due to a more lenient regulatory environment. The first shipment was in December, dropping off a bag of popcorn and a Fire TV streaming device to a house in the English countryside 13 minutes after receiving the online order.

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