Brexit: The biggest winners and losers

A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains lies on the street in London, on June 24, 2016.
A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains lies on the street in London, on June 24, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Victory for the Leave campaign in the United Kingdom's referendum on European Union membership will roil business, markets and politics.  

Here's a look at some likely winners and losers from the vote.

WINNERS

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove

They were the ubiquitous faces of the Leave effort. The former London mayor and the Justice Secretary will now be heroes to the Conservative Party parliamentarians who are deeply anti-EU, and well positioned to replace Prime Minister David Cameron as leader. In the leadership race that would follow, "the two-thirds of the party who are Euroskeptics may well go for Boris or Gove," said Jon Davis of King's College London.

It was also a victory for UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who wasn't part of the official Leave campaign but has pushed for separation for a quarter-century.

 
 

Marine Le Pen and Vladimir Putin

The leader of France's anti-immigration National Front made no secret of her support for a British departure and her hopes for the breakdown of the EU. One year before French national elections, her populist counterparts in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy may be emboldened too. President Putin too may be pleased. A divided, distracted Europe is less likely to focus on opposing Russian designs on Ukraine, or on developing a common energy policy to reduce Putin's influence on gas markets.

Lawyers

Unspooling four decades of EU legislation, negotiating a new relationship with the bloc and embarking on trade deals with the rest of the world means one thing for sure: billable hours. Attorneys with experience of international treaties will be in huge demand in London for years. Experts will be able to charge a scarcity premium: Britain hasn't negotiated a trade deal on its own in decades and "the expertise doesn't exist" to start from scratch now, said Wolfgango Piccoli, co-president of consulting firm Teneo Intelligence.

The Businesses Regulation haters

While most big companies staunchly opposed Brexit, a few argued it will benefit them through lighter regulation and the resulting higher economic growth. JD Wetherspoon Plc's founder, Tim Martin distributed anti-EU and anti-IMF beer mats in some of his 1,000 low-cost pubs in the UK and Ireland. David Ross, founder of what was previously Carphone Warehouse Group, also joined a group supporting the Leave vote on the grounds that EU rules hurt small businesses.

 

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Gold and other safe havens

Investors are looking for the safest assets they can. Gold surged to its highest in two years, while the Swiss franc strengthened the most since the central bank lifted its cap last year. Companies that mine gold should continue rising.

Dublin, Amsterdam and other financial hubs

Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries have all positioned themselves to step in for London. Brexit may make it harder for London-based banks to sell services into the EU, and possible immigration curbs may put into question their ability to hire European staff.

LOSERS

David Cameron and George Osborne

David Cameron brought this day on himself. The prime minister chose to call a referendum in an effort to shore up support from anti-EU Conservatives and head off a challenge from the UK Independence Party. Now his political future is uncertain, and it's likely his legacy will be defined by the vote. His right-hand man, Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne, once seen as a likely potential successor, may also be damaged.

Political and business establishment

Just about everyone able to scare up a microphone urged Britons to vote Remain: President Barack Obama, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to name a few. Business leaders such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. warned that leaving could cost jobs in the U.K. "It's a critical data point in the story of declining trust in institutions and the establishment," said Ian Bremmer, founder of political consultancy Eurasia Group.

Businesses Big banks

Their troubles from Brexit will be legion and their shares are showing it. There will be years of regulatory uncertainty and a probable slump in new share listings and mergers, cutting into advisory fees. Then there's the bankers themselves: international firms will now have to weigh moving people and operations to continental Europe.

UK-exposed companies

Shares of UK companies focused on the domestic market will be hurt.  The pain is likely be worst among the FTSE 250 Index of mid-cap companies, since the larger firms of the FTSE 100 tend to be less dependent on UK revenue, according to analysts at UBS Group AG's wealth management unit. "The mid-cap index generates 50 percent of sales in the UK, compared with just 25 per cent for FTSE 100 sales," said Caroline Simmons of UBS.

The Economy and Markets Growth

The turbulent build-up to the referendum hurt investment and hiring, the Bank of England says, and economic growth slowed to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter. The central bank, which next meets on July 14, will probably need to step up support, economists say. The falling pound  - down to a 30-year low - may not be much help if the euro area also contracts, since seven of the country's top 10 trading partners are in the currency bloc. A recession could result, according to the U.K. Treasury and BOE Governor Mark Carney.

London and its real estate

Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and BlackRock are among international employers that may cut London jobs after separation, which would hurt tax revenue and housing prices. Deteriorating credit conditions will hit property firms including Barratt Developments Plc and Canary Wharf Group Plc, which have said leaving the EU would hinder development projects and raise the cost to build new homes.

Wild Card Scotland's Separatists

The Scottish National Party, which runs Scotland's government, urged Scots to vote Remain. Still, leader Nicola Sturgeon said a Leave vote, assuming Scotland went the opposite way, could underpin a referendum on Scottish independence two years after a previous effort failed. It's a tricky fiscal case to make now with oil, Scotland's key export, hovering around US$50 a barrel. And the governments of Spain and Belgium, wary of empowering their own regional independence movements, might block a Scotland bid to join the EU.

SOURCE: Bloomberg