In Catalonia, the temptation to leave for the little bosses

Ⓒ AFP – PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU – | Create a parallel company in Madrid, print labels in Spanish, or move their headquarters: small Catalan bosses still juggle to circumvent the boycott and the uncertainty that accompanied the threat of secession of their region.

Create a parallel company in Madrid, print labels in Spanish, or move their headquarters: small Catalan bosses still juggle to circumvent the boycott and the uncertainty that accompanied the threat of secession of their region.

Although the situation in Catalonia, put under guardianship by the central government, has momentarily stabilized, the boss of a family group of wines and spirits has not given up mounting a parallel distribution company in Madrid. “A decision you make when you have no choice,” he says.

Calls for boycotts of Catalan products continue to have their effects and his company’s sales to the rest of Spain have fallen by more than 30% since early October, he says.

Distributing from Madrid will allow him not to scare customers with a Catalan address, while maintaining production in Catalonia.

“Otherwise, we no longer sell,” summarizes in his Barcelona shop this fifties, who prefers anonymity “because of the conflict”.

Fearing the boycott or uncertainty of secession, more than 2,700 companies have moved their headquarters out of the region and the list continues to grow, even though the pace of departures has declined.

This purely administrative decision, however, fears real moves in the future.

Among the companies having moved their headquarters, large groups representing 30% of the Catalan GDP, including banks, but also a myriad of small and medium enterprises.

In a wealthy neighborhood of Barcelona, ​​a small drug distribution company has accelerated a transfer already planned from its headquarters to Seville, recognizes his affable boss, who also refuses his name is quoted, given the sensitivity of the subject.

Its sales fell by 10 to 20% this fall in the pharmacies of Andalusia (south), where the company makes the majority of its turnover.

“Patients say: give me a product that is not Catalan (…) This had never happened,” says the director, explaining also wanted to avoid being out of the European legal framework in case of independence of Catalonia.

“We would go bankrupt because the medicines we import would be subject to customs duties,” he says.

– “Political pressure” –

The majority of small companies having changed their headquarters were especially “afraid of a boycott”, but “keep factories, management and jobs” in Catalonia, nuance Enric Rius, tax expert who assisted several companies in their efforts.

“If it affected me, I would leave, but for now my business does not feel,” says Francisco Castillo, head of a transport company near Barcelona. Nevertheless “everything stopped, no one makes a decision, does not buy machines in this context,” he says.

While many small Catalan bosses do not hide their separatist sympathies, the decisions to change seat are far from always being well seen.

In the big city of Terrassa, 30 km north of Barcelona, ​​Aleix Pons i Coll, quick wit and white hair, felt “anger and pain” in early October, when the announcement of the departure of the two main Catalan banks.

The Previsio Mutual, of which he is Vice-President, worked closely with them but is now considering a change of course.

“Even reluctantly, we may decide to no longer work with the (banks) who leave, and to focus on those who remain,” says the head, who switched to independence in 2010, during the partial annulment by the Spanish courts of a statute strengthening the autonomy of Catalonia.

A decree facilitating the procedure of change of seat, adopted in early October by the central government, also feeds resentment, while Madrid now encourages companies to return to a Catalonia placed under guardianship.

“It is clear that there has been political pressure, how can we tell them that they do not go away when we have done everything for!”, Said Mr. Pons i Coll.

Few believe that the December 21 regional elections will bring business back. “The perception is that (Catalan society) will continue to play laws, and that is dangerous for the business,” said the director of the pharmaceutical company.

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