Ineos Said Moving Corporate Functions Back to UK

Ineos is planning to move some of its corporate functions back to the UK from its current headquarters in Switzerland, according to unconfirmed press reports.

In an interview with the London newspaper Daily Mail, the petrochemical group’s chairman said he is “cheerful about coming back to the UK,” five years after moving headquarters from Lyndhurst in Hampshire to Rolle, Switzerland – near Lausanne – after failing to win tax breaks from the then-Labour government.

“We increasingly found ourselves gravitating towards London. There was so much going on for our business, and we had grown substantially here,” Ratcliffe said. At its new base in London, he said Ineos will have a large trading floor for its oil and gas traders, who are currently based at Canary Wharf. “A few people will move from Lausanne.”

“The return of such a successful business is a massive coup for the policies of (prime minister) David Cameron and (chancellor of the exchequer) George Osborne,” the newspaper commented. The British government has been trying to lure fresh corporate investment with the promise of lower corporation taxes.

Ratcliffe, who himself will remain a Swiss resident, said the move in 2010 – after the Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined to temporarily defer VAT payments of £350 million when the chemical producer found itself overexposed to the financial crisis – has saved Ineos £100 million in tax annually.

Ineos is still one of the largest manufacturing businesses in the UK. Many of its assets remain there, notably the mammoth petrochemicals complex at Grangemouth in Scotland – despite Ratcliffe’s repeated threats to pull out.

The group is close to completing an export terminal for shale gas near Grangemouth, for which it won pledges of investment aid from both the UK and Scottish governments on resolution of an industrial dispute in 2013. It also has nailed down permits to explore for shale gas in the area surrounding Grangemouth and is currently biding its time until the Scottish government completes an investigation into fracking-related risks.

Commenting on the fracking issue in the Daily Mail, Ratcliffe said, “if you don’t pursue shale, it’s difficult to see how the UK can remain competitive.” In comments made to other news media, he said Ineos will seek permission to test-drill and carry out seismic testing for fracking “imminently,” and does not believe this will breach the temporary moratorium on exploration in Scotland put in place earlier this year.”

The Ineos chairman said he thinks it is “responsible” for the Scottish government to study the risks in more detail.

“We don’t need to do any fracking for the next couple of years,” he remarked. “What we’d like to do is drill a couple of holes, do the seismic and just find out what’s down there.”

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