Google commits to post-Brexit UK with major London investment

November 15, 2016 12:47 PM EST

A Google search page is reflected in sunglasses in this photo illustration taken in Brussels May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

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By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Google delivered a vote of confidence in London's future as a technological hub after the Brexit vote on Tuesday by announcing plans for a new building in the King's Cross area of the city that will house thousands of extra engineers.

Google's Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said computer science had a great future in Britain, citing the talent pool, educational institutions, and passion for innovation present in the country.

"That's why we are investing in London in both engineering talent and infrastructure," he said.

The 10-storey building, Google's first wholly owned and designed outside the United States, will increase its presence in King's Cross to more than 1 million square feet, enough for more than 7,000 employees in total, the company said.

Google has 5,700 employees and contractors in the UK, including about 2,000 engineers housed in the recently opened building in King's Cross where Pichai announced the expansion.

Pichai, who became CEO in October 2015 when parent company Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) was created, said he was optimistic about Britain's future, despite the uncertainty caused by June's vote to leave the European Union.

"Historically, the UK has been an open and connected economy, and like a lot of businesses we are proud of and rely on the fact that we recruit the best talent from around world," he said. "We are optimistic that this situation will continue."

"We understand there is uncertainty and even concerns about topics like Brexit and the pace of technological change in our times, but we know for certain that web and digital technology will be an engine of growth for the UK for years to come."

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said the investment showed leading firms were still choosing to invest in Britain, while the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said inflows remain "robust" post-Brexit.

"London isn't just the tech capital of Europe, we are on the shoulder of New York and we are catching up with Silicon Valley," Khan said at the event.

"Investment into the capital post-Brexit remains robust, so Google's expansion will further strengthen our city's reputation as a global leader in digital technology."

Pichai made reference in his speech to another event that exposed a division in a western society: the U.S. election.

"Recent events, including the election in the U.S., have clearly surfaced challenges with inequality and people feeling marginalized," he said.

These were "long-term and difficult" problems to solve, he said, but it was his hope that Google would play a constructive role in addressing some of these challenges.

The company, along with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), on Monday announced measures aimed at halting the spread of "fake news" on the internet by targeting how some purveyors of phony content make money: advertising.

The shifts comes as Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR) face a backlash over the role they played in the U.S. presidential election by allowing the spread of false and often malicious information that might have swayed voters toward Republican candidate Donald Trump, who won the Nov. 8 vote.

(Additional reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Stephen Addison and Alan Crosby)



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