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Wall Street eyes Frankfurt amid Brexit uncertainty

ReutersLONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) — Some of the globe’s biggest banks have decided to rent more office space in Frankfurt, bolstering Germany’s financial hub after months of divorce talks between Britain and the EU have left London’s future more uncertain than ever.

Goldman Sachs has agreed to lease 10,000 square meters of office space at the new Marienturm building in Frankfurt, making it one of the city’s biggest wins since Brexit.

It will take the eight top floors of a new 37-story tower now being built, giving it space for up to 1,000 staff, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That would be five times the current staff of 200 and see the Wall Street giant bolstering activities including trading, investment banking and asset management. A spokesman said it gave “space to execute on our Brexit contingency plan.”

Morgan Stanley has also signed a lease for offices in a tower, the Omniturm, that is also now being built. It has 200 staff in Frankfurt and expects to double that number, said one person familiar with the plans. The bank declined to comment.

JP Morgan is also considering renting two additional floors on top of the five it now occupies at a high-rise tower in the center of town, said a person familiar with the plans.

The bank, which currently has 450 staff in Frankfurt, declined to comment.

Citi has said it will build its Frankfurt operations by adding 150 staff. It plans to expand inside its current building dubbed Welle, near Frankfurt’s opera house. The expansion is the result of growing nervousness about the future of London’s financial center amid slow and acrimonious negotiations between Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis and his opposite number at the European Commission, Michel Barnier.

Underscoring the confusion, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a calamitous keynote speech on Wednesday, interrupted by coughing fits, a prankster and letters of a slogan falling off her stage backdrop.

Although some politicians in Britain are skeptical banks will follow through by moving large numbers of jobs, bankers in the City of London financial hub see an urgent need to act.

The stakes are high. Financial services are Britain’s biggest tax and export generator.

Once Britain leaves the EU — planned for March 2019 — banks in London could find it harder to do business within the bloc, prompting many to seek a foothold such as Frankfurt.Speech

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