Brexit prompts oil giant relocation

French oil company Total announces plans to move its financial HQ back to Paris from London in 2020, blaming Brexit and costs.

French oil company Total announces plans to move its financial HQ back to Paris from London in 2020, blaming Brexit and costs.
Seven years after moving its financial HQ from Paris to London, French oil company Total has announced it will relocate the office once more... back to the French capital.Blaming Brexit and cost factors, the company said it would move its finance team and up to 70 jobs to Paris during the course of 2020.Patrick Pouyanne, Total's chairman and chief executive, told a conference in Paris that from a legal point of view, Brexit "doesn't change much". But he added, "I think it's good that the big European groups show their faith in Europe. We have just decided to bring it back to Paris. There is Brexit at play – and then there is a question of costs."

Mass exodus from UK to Europe

The move is the third made by Total in recent months. In September 2019, the company announced it was to relocate its 200-strong energy team from London to Geneva. It also moved the London-based office marketing liquefied natural gas to Paris following its purchase of the LNG arm of French utility giant Engie.Mr Pouyanne has been a fierce critic of Brexit, telling an industry conference in Aberdeen, Scotland last autumn that it was a “fundamental mistake” that would harm the UK economy.He added, “It’s a choice. It’s a democracy, we have to respect it. [But] I think it’s a fundamental mistake. Everything that is an export activity will face taxation. That could be a real issue for the UK economy, not for Total."
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With the future post-Brexit arrangements between the EU and the UK for financial services still unclear, Mr Pouyanne described the decision to return its financial core to Paris as logical."We can find talents in Paris that are a bit less expensive than in London, so altogether, it's a logical decision that's been quickened by the confirmation that Brexit is taking place," he said.

Brexit ramifications

There was considerable criticism in France in 2013 when Total shifted its financial operations to London – a move, the company said, that would enable it to be closer to the oil industry’s most important investors, advisers and analysts.Now that the move is to be reversed, the Financial Times commented, "While the number of posts is relatively small, it underlines doubts about London’s ability to retain its attractiveness as a premier financial hub once the UK exits the bloc at the end of this month."Following the UK’s vote to quit the EU in 2016, Paris and Frankfurt have sought to lure banks and financial services firms away from their rival, with some success. Yet despite early predictions of a rush out of London, the mass exodus from Europe’s largest financial centre has been slower and less pronounced than some feared."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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