Fert and I would have billions more at our disposal if we lived in Switzerland for business and other good reasons.
John H. Andresen
Chairman and Investor
It is a history
Chronicles reveal the writer’s attitude. Articles and discussion posts can be submitted to E24 here.
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there there will be trouble
If I stayed it would double
These are some opening stanzas of the 1981 film The Clash Hit. And they may explain the predicament some owners in Norway now find themselves in after a huge increase in the tax burden. Some owners have already made up their minds, and the beginnings of an exodus to Switzerland are already fully documented.
There was obviously a row when the owners moved, and as we’ve seen, – the accusations rained down. There are many downsides to moving away from one’s home, so discussions in many homes and boardrooms must have been lively. But it is not obvious that there would be a problem if they stayed in Norway, and how beneficial it would be for the owners to actually go abroad for their companies.
In terms of liquidity, if the biggest franchisees move, it will undoubtedly be more beneficial for the companies. This reduces the need to pay dividends to wealth tax. Owners of the same company that doesn’t move, especially foreign owners, all benefit because more money is involved and the company is worth more.
With a strong balance sheet that provides better credit terms with the bank, the company can bid more for larger projects, accept lower margins, and offer better conditions to employees – in short, the company becomes more competitive.
So the move is very profitable for both the owners and the company. For large companies, we’re talking millions saved – every day. This is one of the reasons why people move. And it requires owners of other surviving firms to compete against those who have left. But I don’t blame the movers.
Another reason owners leave Norway is that they don’t have the money to pay taxes. Yes, they have assets like stocks, property and operational assets, but they don’t have money in the bank that they can turn over to the tax authorities. So no money. If the owners don’t want their company to pay extra dividends to pay their taxes, or the company can’t pay, it’s like a game of monopoly: when you draw the tax card, you have to sell. Something to pay your tax bill.
For those holding shares in listed companies, selling shares may be an option. On the other hand, if you own shares in unlisted companies or real estate, it is very difficult to sell any shares because these are illiquid, meaning there are few or no buyers. So it may be necessary and appropriate for the owner to move.
Torbjörn Roe Isaksen: Exodus, the way out of the motherland
Another reason to move to a high-tax country is if you want to give very large amounts to good causes. This is easier to achieve if you don’t have to pay corporation tax, dividend tax and wealth tax before actually transferring it to the cause you want to contribute to. And, this way, companies don’t run short of funds because owners are happy to give.
Nevertheless, if Ferd’s owners still live in Switzerland for business and other good reasons, Ferd also believes that we will have billions more. A lot has to do with how we have attracted people with good values and great skills, and how Fert is organized to use the organization as a platform for positive change. Such a company and its active ownership cannot be moved easily.
But don’t take owners for granted. Because even though it’s known to be very bad for sea fish and marine fish in Switzerland, one final stanza of The Clash still hangs in the air:
So let me know
Shall I go?
34 rich people have left this year – taking 30 billion in net worth with them
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