Top Bosses See London Gaining Edge With France, US Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Finance chieftains are once again looking to invest in London as political turmoil in France and the US make the UK look more competitive on the global stage, according to the chief executive officer of a top London lobbying group.

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“What business finds difficult from the point of view of making decisions on investment is political instability,” Miles Celic, who leads TheCityUK, a financial lobbying group, said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio. “As one European bank CEO put it to me a little while ago, suddenly the UK looks like the politically stable choice from an investment perspective.”

For years, banks have had to move staffers out of London after the UK’s decision to leave the European Union forced them to beef up their trading desks on the continent. Many firms chose to expand their business in Paris, though Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dublin, Milan, Madrid and Warsaw have all seen more bankers walking their streets.

But French President Emmanuel Macron’s bid to block Marine Le Pen’s path to power by calling snap elections has rattled investors and raised questions about the future of his pro-business agenda. In the US, measures of the public’s confidence in the federal government continue to hover near record lows.

“It’s a setback, of course, for Europe and for France in particular,” Emmanuelle Bury, BNP Paribas SA’s UK country head, said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio at an event hosted by TheCityUK. “Paris, well we’ll see what happens. The problem is that at the moment it’s so uncertain — the results of the election. If the result is not going in the right direction, there is going to be some, probably a little bit of a slowdown in the investment in France. But we will see what happens.”

UK financial markets have so far given a collective shrug to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise general election on July 4. The muted reaction has been seen as a vote of confidence that a widely expected victory for Keir Starmer and his opposition Labour Party won’t scare away investment across the country.

That’s put the UK on better footing in the minds of CEOs across the industry after years of instability, Celic said, “when you look at what’s happening across the channel in France, when you look at what’s happening in some of the elections that have happened or may happen in Europe or elsewhere, when we look at what may be the fallout of the election in the United States.”

Still, he said, in the UK “what I’d like to see is whoever wins the general election, that they very rapidly push that point about political stability.”

--With assistance from Caroline Hepker.

(Updates with comments from TheCityUK event in fifth paragraph.)

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