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Business News

James Moore: London listing allows Wolseley to ride waves

Outlook Tough times for Wolseley, the multinational plumbers merchant, whose upbeat performance in the UK and the US was tarnished by the continuing struggles of the construction industry in Europe.

If management doesn't get this sorted out, investors might start getting fractious. Their reaction to yesterday's numbers certainly blew some of the froth of the shares which had previously been merrily chugging along.

Shareholders in Switzerland, where the Jersey-registered company resides for taxation purposes, do things like rebel over the commodity closest to the heart of executives: pay.

Fortuitously, however, Wolseley's shares are listed in London, where investors have taken a much more relaxed view on this subject than have their counterparts in the country that gave us cuckoo clocks, chocolate, top class skiing and banking secrecy laws.

Thus it gets all the benefits of London's deep pool of capital and the visibility and prestige that holding a place in the FTSE 100 index confers while at the same time paying its tax in Zug.

Now you may think that the company is trying to have its cake and eat it with such a set up. And you'd be right. That's exactly what the Wolseley is up to.

The thing is, we've allowed it, and other multinationals, to get away with this sort of thing perfectly legally.

Until that changes, companies like Wolseley will carry on devouring their Swiss rolls along with their Lemon Drizzles and their Bakewell Tarts while thumbing their noses at us.