LONDON Oct 17 With a quip about British fog and
French frogs, Paris began an advertising campaign on Monday
aimed at poaching business from London after the Brexit vote
raised questions about the future dominance of Europe's top
Billboards showing a green frog wearing a tie sporting the
colours of the French flag and the slogan "Tired of the fog? Try
the Frogs! Choose Paris La Defense" are being put up at London's
Heathrow Airport and the London train station of the Eurostar,
showcasing the French capital's business district.
The June 23 vote to leave the EU took many investors and
chief executives by surprise, triggering the deepest political
and financial turmoil in Britain since World War Two and the
biggest one-day fall in sterling against the dollar.
Some bankers have warned that London could gradually lose
its position as the only financial capital to rival New York
because foreign banks could move out after Brexit, draining
London of talent, wealth and trading revenues.
London accounts for 41 percent of global foreign exchange
turnover, more than double the nearest competitor, New York,
according to the Bank for International Settlements. London's
closest European competitors are Switzerland and Paris, which
each take about 3 percent of global foreign exchange turnover.
Around 85 percent of European-based hedge funds are based in
London, which is also the leading market for international
insurance and reinsurance.
Officials from La Defense business district said the adverts
were aimed at underscoring the attractiveness of the French
capital's financial powerhouse, which it said had lower rentals
and good public transport.
"As regrettable as Britain's exit from the European Union
may be, we have to be pragmatic and promote our own assets,"
Patrick Devedjian, head of the elected council representing the
Hauts-de-Seine district where La Defense is located, said in a
Marie-Cecile Guillaume, director general of Defacto, a
public body involved in managing La Defense, said the campaign
aimed to roll out "the blue, white and red carpet for thousands
of professionals now seeking new European headquarters."
This summer the French government introduced extra tax
concessions for expatriates in the hope Paris could profit from
Brexit, but experts say other centres with more flexible labour
and tax rules are likely to be bigger beneficiaries.
French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that
Britain's decision to leave the European Union should not
jeopardize the bloc's principle of free movement.
"They have decided to leave. I think the worst attitude
would be to contest their choice or call into question the very
foundations of the European Union," Hollande told a conference
on Europe in Paris.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Callus in Paris and Estelle
Shirbon in London; Editing by Dominic Evans)