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Corporations are fleeing global chaos

Illustration of a hand pulling an arrow out of a cluster of arrows
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Companies around the world are changing their tunes and addresses — uprooting supply chains and moving their headquarters to get ahead of unsettled global chaos.

Driving the news: Dyson said Tuesday it would move its headquarters from the U.K. to Singapore — not because of Brexit, according to its founder, leading Brexit advocate Sir James Dyson, but to "future-proof" the business.

Yes, but: The company is part of a growing pattern.

  • Japan-based Panasonic executive Laurent Abadie said the company would shift its EU headquarters out of the U.K. to Amsterdam, citing "Brexit-related concerns like access to free flow of goods and people."
  • Steve Madden said last year on an earnings call with analysts that it was "aggressively shifting production out of China" and said the company will source 16% of its tariffed goods from countries other than China.
  • Foxconn, Apple's biggest iPhone supplier, is looking to push production out of China and into India — a move that could "lower prices by allowing Apple to avoid a tariff that adds 20% to devices imported from China."
  • Unilever sought to move its headquarters to Rotterdam from London last year, but met strong resistance from shareholders.

Watch this space: More than half of the 48 financial services companies in EY's Brexit tracker said they are considering moving some of their operations and or staff out of the U.K., thanks to Brexit uncertainty.

Why it matters: “Those are big calls," Carlos Gutierrez, a former Commerce secretary and former CEO of Kellogg who now chairs Albright Stonebridge Group, tells Axios. "Moving a supply chain is a big investment, and putting together a supply chain is a big investment to start with."

  • “I doubt these companies will go back,” even if tensions ease, Gutierrez said.

Be smart: Behind the scenes firms are continuing to plan for a "'no-deal' scenario," Omar Ali, U.K. Financial Services Leader at EY, wrote in the company's Brexit tracker report. "The closer we get to March 29 without a deal, the more assets will be transferred and headcount hired locally or relocated."

Go deeper: Brexit is giving us a grim preview of gridlock gone worse

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