The proposed departure of Spanish construction conglomerate Ferrovial to Holland for ‘a better business environment’ has set off a firestorm of finger pointing in Madrid.
Ferrovial, which is part owner of Heathrow airport and generated almost 90% of its revenues from outside Spain last year, said it views the Netherlands as having a more stable legal framework.
It also sees potential for lower financing costs due to the country’s ‘AAA’ credit rating – as opposed to Spain’s A rating.
A government spokesperson slammed the move of Spain’s 13th biggest company by market capitalisation as ‘ungrateful’ and ‘not in line with the effort that the country has made in terms of investments’.
Economy Minister Nadia Calviño also voiced her disapproval, saying the decision ‘seems to go against the interest and image of our country’, adding that she had called Ferrovial’s Chief Executive Rafael del Pino to convey her opposition.
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez reminded del Pino that ‘the nation is not just about building wealth, it’s about being supportive, lending a helping hand, and particularly, when your country needs you.’
But Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, the leader of the Popular Party (PP) accused Sánchez of being ‘more hooligan than anyone’ for ‘insulting’ Ferrovial and del Pino.
Feijoo criticised the government for ‘inflaming the problem’ instead of solving it, and said the thing to do is to sit down and work with the company’s shareholders so they would have ‘the elements they need to come to a different decision’ about moving their social headquarters to the Netherlands.
Del Pino, who owns 20% of the €19bn company, said in January: “I believe that we must turn Spain back into an attractive investment destination and a magnet for the best talent, and for this we need a competitive labour framework and legal certainty in all areas.”
The socialist-led coalition government in Madrid has managed to secure a number of high-profile investments, but it remains unpopular with many Spanish corporate leaders who dislike its tax policies, legal reforms and criticism of big business.
Ferrovial plans involve a reverse merger, with its wholly-owned Dutch subsidiary Ferrovial International SE (FISE) absorbing it to be listed in Spain, the Netherlands, and later the United States.
Ferrovial said that the proposed headquarters shift to the Netherlands would need to secure shareholder approval and would aim to complete the move in the second or third quarter of 2023.