Sony Europe moves legal base out of UK because of Brexit

Company to register European business in Amsterdam

By DANIEL SHANE, CNN BUSINESS
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

(CNN) - Britain's dithering over Brexit has gone on too long for Sony.

The Japanese company said Wednesday that it would register its European business in Amsterdam, switching its legal base from London. It blamed uncertainty surrounding Britain's plans to leave the European Union.

The announcement underscores the fears over Brexit among top Japanese corporations, many of which are major investors in the UK economy.

Sony (SNE) said its move will be effective from March 29, the day Britain is set to exit the European Union. The company described it as insurance against the risk of a disorderly "no deal" Brexit.

Sony made the decision because "there is a lot of uncertainty around Brexit," spokesman Takashi Lida told CNN Business. It's "best to prepare in case no deal is reached" between London and Brussels, he added.

Britain's parliament last week rejected by a record margin the divorce deal that Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed with EU negotiators. What happens next is very unclear.

Sony said the move to the Netherlands will help it avoid potential problems with customs regulations after Brexit. It doesn't plan to move any of its staff from London to Amsterdam, and European operations will still be run out of the United Kingdom.

The company is best known for making electronic devices, but its businesses range from movies to streaming music.

Time's up

It is the latest warning signal from corporate Japan about the consequences of Brexit.

Panasonic (PCRFY) said in August that it would move its European base from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands.

The company said at the time it was worried about potential restrictions on the flow of people and goods between Britain and other countries.

The Japanese government warned early last year that its companies could move elsewhere in Europe if trade barriers after Brexit wipe out their profit margins.

It estimated that more than 1,000 Japanese companies do business in the United Kingdom, employing more than 140,000 people.

They include global banking giant Nomura (NMR) and major carmakers Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY) and Honda (HMC).

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