BARCELONA, Spain – More companies are deciding to move their official base out of the Spanish region of Catalonia as tensions grow over the local government's push to declare independence.
Here's a look at what is happening, what it means, and why it is important.
WHAT COMPANIES ARE MOVING?
Those that have already decided to move their official base are Banco Sabadell, Spain's fifth-largest bank by assets, textiles maker Dogi, reprographics company Service Point Solutions, telecommunications provider Eurona and biotech firm Oryzon Genomics.
Executives at Caixabank, Spain's third-largest bank, are due to discuss the issue Friday and cava-maker Freixenet, a household name in sparkling wine, is also considering a move.
Companies that have agreed to move saw an immediate rise in their share prices, with Oryzon jumping over 20 percent at one point.
WHAT DOES THEIR RELOCATION MEAN?
The companies are moving only the official address of their legal residence. For now, that does not affect jobs or investments. Most of these companies are big enough to have large offices in other Spanish cities, so it's mainly a question of paperwork, though they could decide to move operations as well if the situation worsens in the region.
WHAT RISK ARE THEY TRYING TO AVOID?
Their main concern is that they may no longer be covered by Spanish and European Union laws and rights if Catalonia manages to secede and they remain based in the region.
Banks, for example, have a right to do business anywhere in the EU's 28 states by virtue of being based in the bloc. Should Catalonia secede, the banks would lose that right overnight if they are still based officially in Catalonia. It's a problem similar to the one British banks are facing when the country eventually leaves the EU. Many banks with EU bases in London are setting up new EU headquarters in cities like Frankfurt and Paris.
ARE THERE OTHER SIGNS OF ECONOMIC DISTRESS?
So far, the immediate economic impact on households and businesses has been limited. The most notable change has been a moderate drop in Spanish stocks and bonds. The Ibex 35 has been volatile but is down only 2 percent on the week.
The greater concern is if the tensions escalate further. The region of Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain's overall economy, so its departure would seriously hurt Spain's public finances and raise questions about economic relations.
For Catalonia, full independence would create a multitude of huge economic risks. The region would officially drop out of the EU and the euro currency union and have to adopt a new money. That would lead to mass bankruptcies as the new currency would likely plunge in value, leaving businesses and the regional government paying debts in euros with a new, devalued currency. Local investors would flock to move their money out of the region for fear of having it redenominated in a weaker currency. That could force Catalonia to put limits on money flows during what would likely be a deep recession. It's what Greece had to do two years ago when it was close to leaving the euro. Greece has still not fully lifted the money controls.