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BNP Paribas London expats told to go local or go home

PARIS (Reuters) - French bank BNP Paribas is forcing some long-standing London-based "expat" traders to choose between coming back to Paris or losing their expat status by switching to a local UK contract, the bank said on Wednesday.

The traders affected, some of whom have worked for years in London with a French home base, have a difficult choice: convert to British contracts, or return to France where they could face higher tax rates.

A bank spokesman said the change would result in "equitable treatment" for the expatriates relative to some 400 French BNP Paribas traders in London who already work under British contracts.

"We are applying the rules already in place at our competitors," the spokesman said.

The spokesman declined to confirm a report in newspaper Le Monde that some 150 expat traders would be affected by the change. BNP Paribas's investment bank has some 3,000 employees in London.

He also denied that switching traders to British contracts was a way of making it easier to fire them. French labor law offers more protection to employees and layoff-related lawsuits tend to be costly and drawn-out affairs.

BNP Paribas rival Societe Generale , which had intended a year ago to transfer more employees to London, decided to cut short the initiative at the end of 2012, bankers have told Reuters.

BNP Paribas, which like other French banks faces slow revenue growth at home, has made no secret of its desire to slash costs. In February it said a three-year efficiency drive would bring annual cost savings of 2 billion euros ($2.60 billion). ($1 = 0.7691 euros)

(Reporting by Christian Plumb and Lionel Laurent; editing by Geert De Clercq and Jane Merriman)

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