London’s Low Taxes Lure Foreign Companies as Banks Retrench

By Matthew Campbell and Aaron Kirchfeld - Oct 17, 2013

The Swiss town of Baar boasts clean air, easy access to ski slopes and some of Europe’s lowest personal taxes. London? Traffic and perpetual drizzle.

Yet executives at Noble Corp. (NE), a provider of deepwater oil drilling rigs, are in the process of moving headquarters from Baar to the British capital, citing the talented workforce and easy airline connections from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest international airport. On top of that, the U.K. tax rate is now competitive with Switzerland’s historically corporate-friendly tax regime.
Noble is part of a wave of overseas companies moving head offices to London, lured in part by the country’s declining corporate taxes. The relocations underscore Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to make the country more attractive to foreign companies -- and may help London become less dependent on the financial services industry, which has been retrenching since the 2008 crisis.
“There is definitely a swing back to the U.K. under way and I think there will be more,” said Angus Winther, a senior adviser at investment bank Evercore Partners Inc. in London. “There are huge advantages: you have a vast talent pool, infrastructure, language, and lowered tax rates.”
Last year 45 foreign companies moved their global or regional headquarters to London, up from just 25 in 2009, data from research group FDI Markets show. Among the moves this year: General Electric Co.’s oil and gas unit, which is departing Florence, Italy, and Chinese developer ABP (China) Holdings Group Ltd., which is setting up its worldwide head office in London...

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