The tidy towns and mountain vistas of Switzerland are an unlikely setting for an oil boom.
Yet a wave of energy companies has in the last few months announced plans to move to Switzerland — mainly for its appeal as a low-tax corporate domicile that looks relatively likely to stay out of reach of Barack Obama’s tax-seeking administration.
In a country with scant crude oil production of its own, the virtual energy boom has changed the canton or state of Zug, about 30 minutes’ drive from Zurich, beyond all recognition. Its economy was based on farming until it slashed tax rates to attract commerce after World War Two.
It still has a chocolate-box old town with views over a lake to the high Alps, but is now surrounded by gleaming corporate offices — including commodity trader Glencore and oil refiner Petroplus — shopping malls and housing developments.
Local authorities say about 13 percent of full-time jobs in Zug canton are in the raw materials sector.
Over the past six months companies including offshore drilling contractors Noble Corp and Transocean, energy-focused engineering group Foster Wheeler and oilfield services company Weatherfield International have all announced plans to shift domicile to Switzerland.
“Switzerland has a stable and developed tax regime and a network of tax treaties with most countries where we operate,” Transocean Chief Executive Bob Long said in a statement in October, when it announced its move. “As a result, the redomestication will improve our ability to maintain a competitive worldwide effective corporate tax rate.”