Catalan's Push for Independence Sparked a Company Exodus

  • CaixaBank SA is the most high-profile, but it isn’t alone
  • Madrid has suspended the regional government and taken control

Ousted Catalan Leader Puigdemont Freed in Brussels

A month after ousted leader Carles Puigdemont first flirted with declaring a Catalan Republic, close to 2,400 companies have left the region because of uncertainty.

The exodus of Catalan-based companies began after the wealthy region held an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1 that was marred by police violence. That week 219 companies shifted their legal base to eliminate doubts about their future legal framework and lock down their position within Spain and the European Union.

The most significant departure was that of CaixaBank SA, the biggest Catalan lender, which relocated its legal base to Valencia. But it wasn’t alone: Banco Sabadell, Abertis, Colonial, Gas Natural and Cellnex -- all IBEX-35 listed companies -- also shifted their registered addresses.

The central government in Madrid introduced an urgent decree on Oct. 6 allowing companies to shift their headquarters more quickly. But the moves are closely correlated to political events. A total of 332 companies re-registered outside Catalonia between Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, coinciding with Puigdemont’s claim to the regional parliament that he had a mandate to declare independence.

For a single day, the peak was Oct. 19, when Spain announced it would suspend the regional government after Puigdemont missed a final deadline to drop his quest. With the stage set for a showdown, 268 companies left that day.

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