Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

Unilever abandons plans to move headquarters to Netherlands - business live

Unilever abandons plans to move headquarters to Netherlands - business live

A spokesman said: 'We have had an extensive period of engagement with shareholders and have received widespread support for the principle behind simplification.

Unilever (ul) said when it announced the move in March that a single Dutch base would give it more flexibility to "undertake major M&A" using the stock or disposing of parts of the business.

Public declarations of opposition to the move were around 12 percent of its London-listed share capital heading into Friday's announcement, almost half of the shares by value needed to vote it down, based on a 100 percent turnout.

The Investor Forum, which works to escalate investor concerns to companies, said it worked with over 20 institutions on this issue.

The agribusiness giant "will now consider its next steps and will continue to dialogue with its shareholders", said Marijn Dekkers, chairman of the board of Unilever, quoted in the press release.

Unilever is one of the largest companies in the UK's FTSE 100 share index, but the company would no longer be eligible as a member of the FTSE 100 under United Kingdom laws had the proposed change gone through.

Unilever has always insisted the move to Rotterdam was not related to Brexit and said that its 7,300 workers in Britain and 3,100 in the Netherlands would not be affected. They were anxious about the effective forced selling of their shares with no premium, uncertainty around the future tax treatment of Dutch dividends and a perception that the move was partly aimed at securing greater takeover protection under Dutch law.

However, a statement released by the company today claimed that the proposal was not supported by a "significant group of shareholders", and the company has made a decision to cancel the plans as a result.

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Unilever plc shares are listed in London and NY, while Unilever NV (currently based in Rotterdam) has shares listed in Amsterdam and NY.

The company's board on Friday said it still believes that simplifying its dual-headed structure is the best choice for the long term. "We will proceed with the plan to cancel the NV preference shares, further strengthening our corporate governance".

Unilever's Anglo-Dutch structure dates back to 1929 when British soap maker Lever Brothers combined with Dutch margarine company Margarine Unie.

Commenting on Unilever leaving the United Kingdom, the leading strategist said: "I don't think Unilever would have made such a big difference".

It also said at the time that its 7,300 workers in the United Kingdom and 3,100 in the Netherlands would be unaffected by the changes.

Unilever is also home to well-known products like Knorr soup, Magnum ice cream and Dove beauty products.

Friday's announcement will come as a slap to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose government has been angling for post-Brexit business from Britain.

Rutte faces opposition to a plan to scrap a dividend tax in a bid to attract worldwide firms and cash in on Britain's departure from the EU. Shares were up around 1 per cent at 4,116p in early morning trade.

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