$71 billion Japanese giant Panasonic is pulling its European headquarters out of the UK — and Brexit is to blame

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  • Japanese electronics giant Panasonic to move European headquarters out of the UK as a result of Brexit.
  • New HQ will be based in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.
  • The move is being undertaken “to avoid potential tax issues” linked to Brexit, according to Japanese media organisation Nikkei.
  • Panasonic’s announcement follows a warning from the Japanese business lobby that companies are “seriously concerned” about continuing Brexit uncertainty.

Panasonic, the £55 billion ($US71 billion) Japanese electronics giant, has announced plans to move its European headquarters out of the UK as Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on the minds of major international corporations using Britain as a base.

The company, best known for its televisions, hi-fi systems, and cameras, said on Thursday that it plans to shift its main European office from near London to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Japanese news agency Nikkei reported that the move is being undertaken “to avoid potential tax issues” linked to Brexit. Effectively, if the UK lowers corporate tax further after Brexit, as it has suggested could happen, it could be considered by the Japanese government to be a tax haven.

If that were the case, it could lead to Panasonic facing back taxes from central government, aimed at discouraging Japanese organisations from having offices in tax havens.

“We will move our European headquarters to the Netherlands,” a spokesperson for Panasonic told AFP, confirming Nikkei’s earlier report. The move will take place in October, and has been under consideration for more than a year, Laurent Abadie, Panasonic Europe’s CEO told Nikkei.

In terms of staff numbers, Panasonic’s UK office – which is based in Bracknell, about 30 miles from London – has around 30 staff, according to the Daily Telegraph. “Around 10 to 20 employees dealing with auditing and financial operations” will be moved, the newspaper said.

The announcement of Panasonic’s headquarters move comes just days after the head of Japan’s biggest business lobbyist said that Japanese businesses are “seriously concerned” about their future in the UK if Brexit uncertainty is not addressed imminently.

“We just can’t do anything. Everyone is seriously concerned,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren, the Japanese business federation, said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday.

Nakanishi told the FT that Japanese businesses operating in the EU are frustrated – like many UK businesses – by the lack of any real clarity over what sort of Brexit the UK will actually achieve when the Article 50 period runs out in March next yar. “Various scenarios get discussed, from no Brexit to plunging into Brexit without any kind of deal at all. We’re now in a situation where we have to consider what to do in all of them,” Nakanishi added.

Several major Japanese financial institutions, including Nomura, Sumitomo Mitsui and Daiwa Securities, have already made plans to move staff away from the UK, and more could follow.