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Google reveals new London 'groundscraper' HQ

Surfboards lean against a wall at the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. Google will report its third-quarter earn
Surfboards lean against a wall at the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. Google will report its third-quarter earn

By Tom Bill

LONDON (Reuters) - Google has revealed that its new UK headquarters is a building longer than the Shard skyscraper is tall.

The so-called groundscraper at the King's Cross Central development is the latest overseas property deal by the cash-rich U.S. internet group, which will house all of its London staff under one roof when completed in 2016.

Google revealed designs for the low-rise one million square feet scheme on Friday after announcing its move to King's Cross in January.

At 330 meters long, it exceeds the height of the 310-metre tall Shard, western Europe's tallest skyscraper.

Swiss bank UBS is undertaking a similar large-scale low-rise scheme at the Broadgate complex in London's main financial district.

Several thousand people will work at the site - a large scale operation Google would have found difficult to house in space-constrained central London where land is also more expensive.

Google has spent about 650 million pounds to buy and develop the 2.4 acre site and the finished development will be worth up to one billion pounds, sources told Reuters.

Construction will start early next year subject to planning approval and it will be one of the internet giant's largest offices outside its so-called Googleplex corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The internet giant is a prized tenant for landlords and its presence is expected to draw other technology companies to King's Cross - especially small start-ups - and help bump up rents.

The new site is likely to include a 20,000 square feet area for bike parking, about the size of seven tennis courts, and features a climbing wall between floors, a source close to the project told Reuters.

The company's offices are famous for perks like gourmet food, bowling alleys, roof gardens, high-tech gyms and on-site medical staff and massages.

King's Cross Central, which sits on a former fish, coal and grain goods yard to the north of the city, spans 67 acres and will contain homes, offices and shops. It is being built by the King's Cross Central Limited Partnership which includes developer Argent Group.

Google has traditionally leased its overseas offices but in the past two years has purchased premises in Paris, Dublin, and now London, its filings show.

As of December 31, 2011, Google had $44.6 billion of cash, with $21.2 billion of that held offshore, according to its 2011 annual report. If the funds held offshore were repatriated, they would be subject to U.S. taxes, Google said.

Tax campaigner and accountant Richard Murphy told Reuters at the time of the January announcement that the decision to buy rather than rent was likely "tax motivated", driven by the fact the company cannot repatriate the cash to the U.S. without paying a fat tax bill.

Google declined to comment on the tax issue in relation to its new London building but said such a large-scale investment was a boost to the Britain's economy.

Earlier this month British MPs described Google's tax affairs as "contrived" after a Reuters report showed the company employed staff in sales roles in London, even though it had told MPs in November its British staff were not selling to UK clients - an activity that could boost its tax bill substantially.

(This version of the story was corrected to clarify the staff numbers in sixth paragraph.)

(Editing by David Cowell)

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