Friday, 22 March, 2019

Brexit strikes again as Unilever moves headquarters to Rotterdam

Polman said the continued spend in the UK reflected the company's confidence in Polman said the continued spend in the UK reflected the company's confidence in
Patty Aguilar | 15 March, 2018, 20:44

Unilever has been owned through two separately listed companies, a Dutch N.V. and a UK PLC, since its formation in 1930.

Unilever, which also markets leading brands Dove soap, Magnum ice-cream and Persil detergent, is now the third biggest company on the FTSE.

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's third biggest company Unilever will scrap its London corporate headquarters and make Rotterdam its sole legal home in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's government nearly one year to the day before Brexit.

It ends months of lobbying by the Dutch and British governments after the maker of Marmite spread and Dove soap said past year it would streamline its dual-headquarters structure.

Unilever, producer of many well known daily necessities brands, such as Lipton tea, Dove soap, Axe deodorant and Jerry's ice cream, stated that it intends to change from two legal entities into one single legal entity, incorporated and tax-resident in the Netherlands.

Board chairman Marijn Dekkers added that the changes "further strengthen Unilever's corporate governance, creating for the first time in our history a "one share, one vote" principle for all our shareholders".

For example, a number of banks, including HSBC, have announced plans to move some employees to the Continent in order to be able to serve their European customers seamlessly when Britain is set to leave the bloc next year.

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The Beauty and personal care and home care divisions will be headquartered in London, while foods and refreshment will continue to be based in Rotterdam. "The decision over the location of Unilever's base is certainly politically charged, but in our view has little relevance from an investors or share price perspective", he said.

However Jos Versteeg, an analyst at the Amsterdam-based InsingerGilissen private bank said he believed Unilever's choice indeed had to do with Brexit.

A government spokesperson said: "Unilever has today shown its long-term commitment to the United Kingdom by choosing to locate its two fastest-growing global business divisions in this country".

Unilever made a decision to consolidate its headquarters after staving off an unsolicited takeover bid from Kraft Heinz Co. past year.

Polman added that the two decisions should represent better opportunities for Unilever to create "long-term value". Dutch takeover laws provide more protection against hostile approaches than the U.K.'s code, requiring boards to take into account the interests of workers, not just shareholders. Built on the site of a Tudor estate, for nine decades it has been the London home to Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer-goods firms.

Unilever last month reported a 9% increase in annual profits to 8.15bn euro (£7.1bn), having been boosted by a strong performance in emerging markets.

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