Dyson moves HQ to Singapore

Brexit-backing vacuum cleaner pioneer Sir James Dyson is abandoning its headquarters in the UK in favour of Singapore as Britain’s divorce from the European Union becomes increasingly chaotic.

The US$16.6 billion global vacuum cleaner market is growing at 4.7 per cent a year, largely led by the Asia-Pacific’s rapid urbanisation, rising incomes and population.

Currently, more than 50 per cent of Dyson’s profits are from customers in Asia.

About a third of all global vacuum cleaners are sold in Asia, where the market is expanding by 5.7 per cent led by demand from China, India and Japan. By contrast, the European market is growing at 0.5 per cent a year.

Dyson, who spent five years working on 5,127 prototypes to come up with the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner, recently became Britain’s richest person, with a worth of US$13.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Two Dyson executives will relocate to the city-state: chief financial officer Jorn Jensen and legal chief Martin Bowen.

Dyson chief executive Jim Rowan said the move was not related to Brexit or tax. “It’s to make us future-proof for where we see the biggest opportunities,” Rowan said.

“We have seen an acceleration of opportunities to grow the company from a revenue perspective in Asia. We have always had a revenue stream there and will be putting up our best efforts as well as keeping an eye on investments.

“We would describe ourselves as a global technology company and in fact we have been a global company for some time. Most successful companies these days are global.”

In 2002, the firm shifted its vacuum cleaner manufacturing away from Malmesbury in Wiltshire to Malaysia.

Dyson in October announced plans to build its electric car at its new factory in the Lion City.

Most Dyson products are designed in the UK, but manufactured in Asia. Rowan said Dyson was not abandoning the UK and would spend £200 million (US$260 million) in building work and testing sites in Hullavington, and £44 million on offices and adding new laboratories in Malmesbury.

“The tax difference is negligible for us,” said Rowan. “We are taxed all over the world and we will continue to pay tax in the UK.”

With the founder vocally supporting Brexit, the decision to move the headquarters to Singapore is unwelcome news for Prime Minister Theresa May’s weakened government as it limps through the Brexit crisis.

Ahead of the divisive 2016 referendum, Dyson said the UK could be £18.5 million richer each year if it left the European Union.

But now Rowan confirmed Dyson’s focus would move towards the Asia-Pacific.

“Only 2 to 3 per cent of our supply chain is in Europe and that goes east and not west. We do look for disruptions in the supply chain, but at this point in time, we don’t foresee any issues with the movement of goods.”

Leave and remain supporters at the London parliament last month. Businesses are abandoning Brexit Britain. Picture credit: Asean Economist