The French oil company Total plans to pull its cash out of the UK after Brexit and return its financial hub to Paris in a show of faith in Europe, according to its chief executive.
Patrick Pouyanné announced plans for Total to move its central treasury, including between 60 and 70 jobs, back to the “heart of Europe’s economic and financial system” in Paris by the end of 2020.
“Total will bring its cash back to Paris,” he told a financial conference in the French capital on Tuesday morning.
He later confirmed the move on social media, tweeting that it was “a logical decision” given the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Total’s decision to abandon the City will raise doubts once again over whether London can retain its position as Europe’s most important financial centre against competition from Paris and Frankfurt.
Pouyanné said that from a legal point of view “it doesn’t change much”, but the company hopes to send a signal that Paris is an attractive place for business.
“I think it’s good that the big European groups show their faith in Europe,” he told delegates at the Euronext conference in Paris.
Total’s decision to return its financial core to Paris comes six years after the €128bn (£110bn) Paris-listed company moved its financial operations to London to be closer to the oil industry’s most important investors, advisers and analysts.
At the time the company said it hoped to “get closer to London, which is the oil trading and financial centre of Europe”.
Since then, Brexit has raised uncertainty over the UK’s future access to other EU financial centres, and Total has set out plans to plough a fifth of its investment into low-carbon energy within the next 15 years.
Total began its retreat from the UK early last year after announcing plans to move its 200-strong energy trading team from London to Geneva in September.
It also moved the London-based team tasked with marketing its liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Paris to join the LNG business it bought from the French utility giant Engie.
At the time, the company said Brexit was “not at all” a factor in the plans.
But after the move in September, Pouyanné warned that Brexit was a “fundamental mistake” that would deal a greater blow to the UK economy.
“It’s a choice. It’s democracy, we have to respect it. [But] I think it’s a fundamental mistake,” he reportedly told an industry conference in Aberdeen. “Everything that is an export activity will face taxation. That could be a real issue for the UK economy, not for Total,” he added.