Blackstone and BNP Paribas are evacuating their bankers out of Japan as the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant worsens, but American banks like Goldman Sachs, Citi and Bank of America are staying put, Bloomberg reports.Blackstone has shut its office in Tokyo office for one week, and its 28 workers and their families are being sent to locations of their choosing for the time being.
French bank BNP Paribas sent about 10 employees to Hong Kong and Singapore.
German bank WestLB has offered its employees the same deal, and ICAP has also moved staff out to Singapore and Hong Kong.
France and Germany have explicitly told their citizens to leave Japan; America is yet to make the same announcement.
Perhaps that’s why U.S banks including Citi, BofA and Goldman Sachs are yet to move their bankers out of Tokyo — though reportedly Citi HQ has had requests from “several senior employees at its trading operations in Tokyo to relocate out of Japan.”
But Citi says it isn’t planning to move it workers out of Japan, though a spokesperson told Bloomberg: “We have contingency plans, and if the situation changes this may involve moving some staff to other locations as needed to ensure business continuity. We are in constant touch with local government officials.”
Reuters reports that Morgan Stanley moved its credit team out of Tokyo; the bank denied it.
Incredibly, the International Bankers Association, which represents all the major global banks from JP Morgan to Deutsche Bank to Barclays, said financial firms in Japan are operating “business as usual” on its site and even made a point to officially deny rumours of mass evacuations by the banks.
But the Telegraph reports that “bankers who have returned to London from Japan or have headed to neighbouring countries said the reality is different.”
And Reuters reports that “bankers are fleeing Tokyo as Japan’s nuclear crisis worsens, scrambling for commercial and charter flights out of the country” and that “private jet operators reported a surge in demand for evacuation.”
Foreign bankers choosing to remain in Tokyo and Japanese bankers said that it was anything but business as usual at the moment with communications patchy, rolling blackouts, thinly-manned desks and so many people looking to leave.
“It’s been almost impossible to get hold of investors since the quake hit,” said one syndicate banker at a U.S. house from the safety of Hong Kong.
A banker from a European i-bank said, “At the end of the day, it’s the employees’ choice whether they flee or stay back.” But when he was asked who was taking up offers to flee the country, he responded: “Who isn’t? Everyone is trying to get out. Wouldn’t you?”
Meanwhile, Warren Buffett cancelled a trip to Japan that was scheduled for next week; he was supposed to be visiting a plant that’s set to open in Fukushima.
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