Catalan Independence Push Could Hit Firms From Nestle to Airbnb

Catalonia Sets Independence Vote Deemed Illegal by Spain

Catalonia, Spain’s would-be breakaway region, is also the country’s most powerful economic engine. Six members of the benchmark Ibex-35 are based there, while others have extensive interests in the area. Foreign corporations from Airbnb to Nestle have focused their Spanish operations in the area.

Here are some of the highest-profile companies that could be affected if Catalonia’s  push for independence triggers deeper turmoil following an illegal Oct. 1 referendum.

Catalan giants:

  • Caixabank. The region’s most iconic company, the bank is Spain’s third-largest, and it also owns stakes in the country’s biggest phone company, Telefonica, and the largest oil company, Repsol -- both of which are based in Madrid
  • Abertis Infraestructuras. Immersed in a takeover by Italy’s Atlantia SpA, the Barcelona-based company operates road concessions in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, requiring it to deal with the regional and central governments
  • Gas Natural SDG. Like Abertis, Gas Natural is based in Barcelona but also has operations across Spain, many of them regulated by the government. That means it’s vulnerable to changes in legal frameworks that could arise from independence
  • Cellnex Telecom. Unlike Abertis, its largest shareholder, the tower operator doesn’t have to deal directly with government concessions to do business. However, its clients across Spain are mainly phone, TV and internet providers -- which face stiff government oversight 
  • Grifols. Spain’s largest listed drugmaker is run by the company’s namesake family, which founded it in the 1940s. Grifols has since expanded to operate in at least 25 countries and the family is a staple of the Catalan business establishment
  • Banco de Sabadell. Catalonia’s second major bank has branches across the country and needs to deal with Spanish regulators in order to be able to operate

Catalan exposure:

  • Industria de Diseno Textil. The world’s largest apparel maker, also known as Inditex, is headquartered in Galicia on the opposite coast of Spain. But several of its nine brands have central offices in Catalonia, and hundreds of suppliers. The company also has a large logistics center in the region which coordinates the manufacture and distribution of products throughout Spain
  • Aena. The Spanish government is the largest shareholder in the airport operator, which has the concession for Barcelona’s El Prat airport, Catalonia’s largest

Foreign firms:

  • Volkswagen has three plants in Catalonia producing for the Seat brand and employs a combined 14,239 workers
  • Cargill, the largest closely held U.S. company, has its Spanish headquarters in Barcelona and several plants in Catalonia that manufacture animal food, refined oils and food ingredients, and processes grains and oilseeds
  • Nestle. The food-maker’s corporate center for Spain is located in Barcelona
  • Airbnb’s Spanish headquarters are based in Barcelona. As the world’s third largest recipient of tourism, Spain is a stand-out market for companies in the hotel and lodging business
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