Banks consider relocation outside Catalonia amid political uncertainty

Political uncertainty over the future of Catalonia's secession bid has hit the economy, with stock markets falling and big Catalan firms relocating, or considering a move, elsewhere in Spain.

Executives at Banco Sabadell, one of Catalonia's largest banks, are set to decide whether to move the company's official registration from Barcelona in order to remain under European regulations even if regional separatist authorities succeed in declaring independence as early as next week.

The news pushed the bank's shares up 4%, following heavy losses of almost 10% this week.

On Wednesday, Spanish stocks suffered the biggest drop since the Brexit referendum in the UK last year.

In a sign that investors are taking the financial risks of independence seriously, one company, biotech firm Oryzon Genomics, saw its shares jump 23% since announcing on Wednesday that it would move its headquarters out of Catalonia.

Around 40% of Catalonia's electorate of 5.5 million voted over the weekend in a divisive referendum marred by violence when police moved in to close polling stations and confiscate ballot boxes.

The Yes side scored a landslide victory that was also expected given that the majority of those who want Catalonia to remain in Spain ignored a referendum that courts had suspended.

Catalan authorities and the Spanish central government are at loggerheads over the vote's legitimacy.

Spain's 1978 Constitution bars any attempt at secession and rules all Spanish nationals must have a say in the country's sovereignty.

Catalonia's regional parliament meets on Monday to evaluate the results of the referendum and pro-independence politicians say the declaration will be made then.

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, the clamour for dialogue and mediation in the political crisis is gathering momentum in Spain, although prime minister Mariano Rajoy's government is sticking to its stance of not talking to those wanting to break up the country.

On Wednesday, Barcelona lawyers set up a commission to promote talks bringing together trade unions, economists and even the city's famed Barcelona football club.

The leader of Spanish opposition party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, called the country's prime minister on Wednesday to urge him to seek mediation.

But Mr Rajoy insisted regional president Carles Puigdemont must first drop the threat of declaring independence.

Mr Rajoy has been under pressure to act without further tarnishing his image or inflaming separatist sentiment in the region, where a strong cultural identity has mixed with years of grievances for what many Catalans see as an unfair economic treatment to the region, one of Spain's richest.

On Thursday, some of the additional police officers deployed in the region were seen checking out of a hotel in the coastal town of Pineda de Mar amid two sets of protesters, one side shouting at them to leave and another showing them support.


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