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Feb 21, 2018

Bank of America commits to London as Brexit draws closer

Bank of America

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Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) is the latest overseas bank to commit its long-term future to the U.K. even as the country prepares for Brexit.

The U.S. lender has extended the lease on its London headquarters by 10 years to 2032, according to a spokesman. That’s well beyond the U.K.’s planned departure from the European Union.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Financial Centre at 2 King Edward Street in the City of London, which has about 585,000 square feet (54,300 square meters) of office space, is owned by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. A spokeswoman for the wealth fund declined to comment.

Concern that the Brexit vote would prompt financial companies to move large numbers of workers out of London has yet to be realized. Banks including Wells Fargo & Co., Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG have bought or leased London buildings since the vote.

WILD CARD

“The big wild card is how Brexit will fall out,” Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in December. “I think it is a negative, but I don’t think it is a strong negative.”

Another U.S. company, Northern Trust Corp., is searching for a new London base after its current lease expires in 2022, two people with knowledge of the plan said. The asset manager has hired CBRE Group Inc. to draw up a list of options if it chooses to leave its current building in the Canary Wharf district, the people said, asking not to be identified because the plan is private.

“We have engaged CBRE in a planning effort to determine how best to maximize our space requirements,” spokeswoman Camilla Greene said in an email. London will continue to be the company’s regional headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, she said.

The U.K. is due to leave the European Union in March 2019. The government is negotiating a transition period to come into effect after this date to ensure that businesses don’t face a sudden change in regulations.