Two big groups in talks to relocate from London to Paris after Brexit - Paris city hall

PARIS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Two major companies have contacted Paris authorities to discuss setting up offices with several thousand square meters of floorspace as they seek ways to keep an EU base after Brexit, officials in the French capital’s municipality said.

Other firms, both in the financial and non-financial sectors, are also looking into setting up Paris offices with 100-200 workers while keeping the rest of their staff in Britain, the officials said.

Paris is competing with other major European cities, including Frankfurt, as it seeks to attract London-based firms after Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union.

“We want Paris to become Europe’s first financial center,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told Reuters and a small group of European newspapers in a joint interview. “There are several big groups that are interested and got in touch.”

Her chief of staff Mathias Vicherat said the Paris municipality and the Paris & Co agency it has set up to attract foreign firms were getting two types of demands from Britain-based companies.

“Some don’t necessarily want to leave Britain entirely but want a presence in France, in Paris, to be in the EU. There we’re talking about small spaces ... for about 100-200 people,” Vicherat said.

He did not give names but said he expected some of those offices to be set up in 2017. Paris’ municipality argues the French capital’s geographical proximity to London gives it an advantage for firms that want to keep a base in Britain.

“Then there are also wider relocations. Two big companies have approached us to find offices of several thousand square meters,” Vicherat said, mentioning office spaces of 5,000-7,000 square meters. Those operations will take longer and could materialise in 2018, he said, while adding that would also depend on how Brexit talks evolve.

Bankers have cast doubts on the chances of France luring much of the UK’s financial industry, citing the country’s unstable tax regime and labour rules that make people difficult to fire as major deterrents.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, however, told Reuters last month that he had been approached by foreign financial groups that could be interested in coming to France, but declined to give their names.

Reuters reported last month that Goldman Sachs was considering shifting some of its assets and operations from London to Frankfurt. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; editing by Michel Rose)