“We cannot wait”: Panasonic is moving its EU headquarters to Amsterdam ahead of Brexit

Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe, opts for Amsterdam.
Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe, opts for Amsterdam.
Image: EPA-EFE/Felipe Trueba
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With Brexit a mere seven months away, Japanese conglomerate Panasonic has announced that it is shifting its European headquarters out of Britain. Panasonic Europe’s CEO Laurent Abadie said yesterday (Aug. 29) that the company’s corporate base would move from Bracknell, in the greater London area, to Amsterdam in October.

“We have been studying this for almost one year, and evaluating everything, and then we decided a few months ago to move forward,” Laurent Abadie told Quartz at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin. He added that the company had examined potential tax issues, as well as its ability to move goods and capital, before deciding that it had to move.

Brexit is “a very difficult issue, and as a company we cannot wait,” Abadie said. “We cannot wait until March and then if something really goes wrong, or bad, or good—I cannot judge—but if there’s no agreement by March, then immediately on the first of April, there will be customs clearance, and duties, and fees, so we see a big risk.”

Abadie added that, for many Japanese companies, the UK has long served as an entry door to the European market. “After Brexit, the UK cannot be the entry door to Europe any more, that’s a fact.”

Abadie told the Nikkei Asian Review yesterday that the decision to move was also driven by concern that Japan could view the UK as a tax haven if it cuts corporate tax rates post-Brexit. That could mean that Panasonic may be asked to pay more taxes in Japan.

The company will move a small number of employees, mainly just those in corporate functions, to Amsterdam.

Japan vs. Brexit

Industry executives have been anxiously waiting for clarity from the British government on whether the UK will exit the bloc with solid trade agreements in place—or indeed, with any plans at all.

Japan in particular has been vocal about the difficulties its businesses and banks will face once the UK is no longer a member of the EU, noting that companies might have to “relocate their operations from the UK to existing establishments in the EU.”

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan’s biggest bank (paywall), has already chosen Amsterdam as a base for its UK investment banking operations. Nomura, Daiwa, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial have opted to move their main bases for EU clients (paywall) to Frankfurt, Germany.