Gas Natural Moves Legal Base out of Catalonia
Spanish gas utility and LNG trader Gas Natural is temporarily transferring its legal headquarters to Madrid from the Catalan capital Barcelona.
The Barcelona-based company is responding to the possibility that Catalonia's regional parliament might declare its independence from Spain in the coming days, despite a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court temporarily preventing the regional parliament from meeting. Some Catalan legislators vowed they would defy the court ruling.
Catalonia held a referendum on independence October 1 in defiance of legal rulings from the Spanish government. National police broke into polling stations across the region, in some cases violently, and in others breaching cordons of Catalan firefighters.
Catalan bank Sabadell moved its HQ to Alicante, a Spanish city outside Catalonia, on October 5. The Catalan police chief was in court in Madrid October 6 facing claims his officers failed to protect their Spanish counterparts, claims that could lead to his trial for 'alleged sedition' against Spain.
The October 1 poll resulted in a 90% vote in favour of Catalan independence, but was flawed by a turnout of less than 50% in part because of Madrid's disruption. Madrid politicians are suspicious of Catalan nationalists, but have to bear in mind that inflamed passions in one region can spread to others such as the Basque region in northern Spain.
Gas Natural's October 6 statement said: "In view of the political and social situation in recent weeks in Catalonia and due to the legal uncertainty that this generates, the Board of Directors of the company has agreed, as long as this situation continues, the temporary transfer of its headquarters to the current corporate offices in Madrid, Avenida San Luis 77."
"This decision does not affect those companies of the group that render their services exclusively in Catalonia. The measure is adopted to maintain the normal operation of the company and in order to protect the interests of the company, its customers, employees, shareholders, creditors and suppliers. This decision will not affect the provision of the service or have any labour consequences."
Although based in Barcelona, Gas Natural has three core shareholders each with 20%: Spain's Repsol, New York-based private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners and CriteriaCaixa, the last being the only one established in Catalonia.
CaixaBank, linked to CriteriaCaixa, is also said to be considering a move of its legal HQ to Madrid.