Unilever delays decision on single HQ, citing ‘unsettled politics’

Food to detergents group Unilever is delaying a choice between its British and Dutch bases, partly because of the unsettled political situation surrounding Brexit, the Financial Times said on Tuesday.

The Anglo-Dutch company had been expected to complete the review of its dual structure by the end of this year, and decide whether or not to shift all its headquarter operations to either the Netherlands or London.

‘I‘m advocating to postpone decisions because it’s a moving playing field – with political turbulence out there. The emotions of the moment are really the issue,’ Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, told the Financial Times.

Asked whether he was referring to Brexit, Polman said: ‘It’s on all sides nowadays – of that you have to be clear. The board is going to take a 30 to 50-year decision. We want to do that well and we want to do that properly.’




Unilever is holding a two-day investor event on Wednesday and Thursday and had been expected to give an update of its decisions.

The company said in a statement later on Tuesday that the review is ongoing. ‘This review is progressing well and the board considers that unification with a single share class would be in the best interests of Unilever and its shareholders as a whole,’ the statement said.

Whatever the decision, Unilever intends to maintain its listings in the Netherlands, Britain and United States.

Dividends

The new Dutch government’s decision to scrap the tax on dividends is seen as a sweetener to tempt Unilever to stay in the Netherlands.

Unilever was formed in 1930 through the merger of British soap maker Lever Brothers and Nederlandse Margarine Unie. The group has a single management and supervisory board but separate Dutch and British bases.

The company is also planning to sell its margarine activities.