Vodafone threat to pull HQ out of UK

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Telecoms giant Vodafone​, one of the biggest companies in the UK,​ has warned it could move its headquarters out of the UK following the ​shock ​Brexit vote.

The group said its decision would depend on whether Britain’s negotiations to quit the European Union would restrict free movement of people, capital and goods.

It said: “The UK’s membership of the European Union has been an important factor in the growth of a company such as Vodafone.

“Freedom of movement of people, capital and goods are integral to the operation of any pan-European business.”

The group said it was too early to “draw any firm conclusions regarding the long-term location for the headquarters”, but added it would “take whatever decisions are appropriate in the interests of our customers, shareholders and employees”.

Vodafone employs more than 13,000 people in the UK and has headquarters in London and offices in Newbury. Newbury will not be affected by any decision to move the HQ and nor will the firm’s Leeds-based data centre and cloud & hosting support team, which employ around 200 people.

Vodafone made 11​ per cent​ of group profits from the UK in the last financial year, with more than half (55​ per cent​) coming from its European operations.

The group added it would be boosting its regulatory and public policy activities in Brussels to “ensure the group’s substantial businesses within the European Union continue to be represented appropriately”.

While it is one of the biggest groups listed on the FTSE 100 Index in London, the majority of its 462 million customers, 108,000 employees and 15,000 suppliers are based outside the UK.​ It is the ​UK’s ​seventh biggest ​PLC​​ and has a stock market value of £55​bn.

A spokesman for Vodafone said: “It remains unclear at this point how many of those positive attributes​ will remain in place once the process of the UK’s exit from the European Union has been completed.”

He added that the company would monitor the situation closely in the coming months​.

​Vodafone is the latest firm to sound the alarm over the Brexit vote and impact of leaving the single European market.

​​Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said the company may have lost up to a third of its value since the Brexit vote and revealed it had pulled the plug on a deal worth 3,000 jobs due to the uncertainty created by the decision to quit the EU.

Budget airline easyJet said it would take a £28​m hit following two months of turbulence and warned that Brexit would have a negative impact.​ Rival ​British Airways cautioned that profits would take a hit, saying it “no longer expects to generate an absolute operating profit increase similar to 2015” following the outcome of the referendum.​

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the Irish carrier would shift investment away from the UK and may decide not to deploy new planes on British routes next year, focusing on the EU instead.

​​In retail, o​nline grocer Ocado said Brexit could send supermarket prices surging as the plunging pound pushes up costs and Carpetright said the Brexit vote could trigger “uncertainty” among shoppers.​

Estate agency Foxtons has also issued a Brexit profit warning, saying the upturn it had expected in the second half of the year is “now unlikely to materialise”, adding that annual earnings will be “significantly lower” than in 2015.​

​It is not just UK companies that are threatening to leave Britain. ​German energy company Siemens has reportedly put new wind power investment plans in the UK on hold due to the Brexit vote​ and American c​redit card giant Visa could reportedly be forced to relocate hundreds of UK jobs in the wake of Brexit due to an agreement in the recent £17.5​bn takeover of its European operations by the group’s American sister company that card transactions should not leave Europe.