MADRID, April 3 The head of Spain's largest
pharmaceutical company, Grifols, on Thursday became
one of the first executives of a major corporation to back a
Catalan leader seeking a referendum on independence for
Catalan President Artur Mas wants to have a referendum on
independence from Spain on Nov. 9. The issue has divided
managers of companies with their roots in northern Catalonia.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says a referendum would
be unconstitutional and the central government will go to court
to block the vote.
Catalonia accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output,
and advocates of secession argue that the region could flourish
economically if it broke with the rest of Spain, whose tax
system spreads wealth among the country's other regions.
The head of Barcelona-based Grifols held up his company's
history - growing from a small, family-owned business into the
world's third-largest maker of blood plasma products - as an
example for Artur Mas.
During a speech at the inauguration of a plant outside
Barcelona, Chairman Victor Grifols turned to Mas, who was
attending the opening.
"A company that is determined must not question that
determination," Grifols said. "I know you're having a rough
time, but if you are determined, keep pushing forward and don't
Besides Grifols, Barcelona is home to some of Spain's
biggest companies, including its third-biggest bank, Caixabank
and smaller peer Sabadell, the global
infrastructure company Abertis and the utility Gas
The executives of most of these firms have held their views
on separatism close to their chest. Taking either side might
cause a backlash from customers on the other side.
Grupo Planeta Chairman Jose Manuel Lara stoked the fury of
Catalan separatists last year when he threatened to move the
publishing firm's Barcelona headquarters to Seville if Catalonia
separated from Spain.
Catalan cava maker Freixenet says some Catalans have
boycotted its wine products since its chairman Josep Lluis Bonet
spoke out against independence. But in a Catch-22, Bonet says
the company also faces a boycott in the rest of Spain just for
Separatist movements in Europe have come under renewed
scrutiny following Russia's recent annexation of Crimea.
($1 = 0.7263 Euros)
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Larry King)