European central bank says new ABN Amro chair should be a banker

Bird flu found on factory farm in Groningen, 36,000 birds destroyed

Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has made it clear that as the ultimate regulator, the European Central Bank would have the last say over the nomination of the new supervisory board chairman of ABN Amro bank. The post is being vacated on 1 July by Olga Zoutendijk after objections to her management style. The ECB is insisting that the new head of the supervisory board have wide experience as a banker, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Friday. Hoekstra has influence over the nomination both because the finance ministry is a member of a major advisory board and is a 56% shareholder in ABN Amro. Complicated Hoekstra told parliament's finance committee on Thursday the search for a new chairman will be 'very complicated'.  For a start, it is practically a given that the job should go to a woman. And during Thursday's debate, MPs said said the candidate should have 'good social antenne'. Jan Patternote of Liberal democrats D66 favours someone who is 'non-political'. Christian Democrat Erik Ronnes fears the banking qualifications will cancel out the required social responsibilities. Both the PvdA and GroenLinks fear that a candidate with the necessary banking background will result in a candidate who also demonstrates the 'undesirable features' of an old-style banker. Pay Almost all say remuneration must be moderate to avoid 'another ING-like situation'. This refers to the recent row about the 50% pay rise for ING CEO Ralph Hamers. Hoekstra told parliament's finance specialists that social aspects of the job are of ultimate importance. He also finds it 'crucial' that the bank does not again nominate a candidate without first-hand knowledge of the Dutch management system'. Her critics, which include former ABN Amro CEO Gerrit Zalm, claim Zoutendijk 'did not know her place'. Zoutendijk operated according to the Anglo-American one-tier management model rather than the Dutch two-tier management scheme, the FD said, Hoekstra said he would do his utmost to see this is not repeated, although he warned about the ECB's insistence on a banking background.  More >

Seatrade fined for illegal scrapping

Dutch shipping company fined for illegally scrapping ships Officials at Dutch shipping company Seatrade have been ordered by a court in Rotterdam to pay fines of between €50,000 and €750,000 for illegally sailing ships from the EU to India to have them scrapped. In the first verdict of its kind in the Netherlands, the company’s directors were also banned from holding executive positions at shipping companies for a year. The judge said Seatrade knew that when it sailed the ships to India they were going to be dismantled, which makes the practice illegal, RTV Noord writes. The ships, which contain large amounts of dangerous substances including asbestos, eventually ended up on beaches in Turkey, Bangladesh and India to be scrapped. In a reaction, Seatrade spokesman Cor Radings said the decision left him ‘surprised and incredulous’ and said Seatrade would ‘most likely’ going to appeal against the decision. ‘We do not agree with the judges vision of the alleged infraction of the regulations surrounding the disposal of waste,’ he told the broadcaster. Seatrade claims it never intended to have the ships scrapped but only made the decision once the ships had left EU territorial waters. The company claims it is being made a scapegoat for the worldwide problem of scrapping obsolete ships - some 1,000 a year are said to be illegally broken up. Toxic waste An estimated 80% of those were dismantled in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh last year, shipping news site MarineLink said. MarineLink says hundreds of ships end up on the beaches of India and other countries in the region each year. ‘They are demolished by untrained workers who have no way to safely deal with the toxic waste the ships contain. (..) Rules adopted by the EU in 2013 mandate that ships registered in the EU must be recycled through approved facilities. But the rules contain loopholes, and the South Asian yards continue to dismantle old ships,’ the website said. Trade union FNV welcomed the verdict, broadcaster NOS reported. The union hopes it will lead to a broad discussion and the improvement of workers’ conditions.  More >

AkzoNobel CEO who 'left' gets €5.5m

Bird flu found on factory farm in Groningen, 36,000 birds destroyed Former AkzoNobel CEO Ton Büchner who resigned last year is pocketing a total of €5.5m for his services over 2017. This includes €925,000 in severance pay despite the fact the it was his decision to leave the paints, coatings and specialty chemicals group, the Financieele Dagblad said on Friday. The FD said details were found in AkzoNobel's 2017 annual report which was published on Thursday. Despite receiving severance pay, Büchner was not sacked, a spokesman for the company said. Akzo was beset by a series of hostile takeover attempts from it US peer PPG Industries and heavy pressure from a major shareholder Elliott Management last year. Having joined the Amsterdam-based company in 2012, Büchner twice took leave for 'health reasons'. Büchner himself decided to leave last July, but due to his performance and the unusual situation last year he was awarded severance pay, the company said. This conflicts with the Dutch corporate code for good corporate management which says people who quit should not get a bonus. The total €5.5m included the severance pay, his full-year 2017 salary of €950,500 and proceeds from the sale of a share package. His total remuneration was €3.5m in 2016.  More >

Unilever move to boost financial services

Bird flu found on factory farm in Groningen, 36,000 birds destroyed Profits will be pouring in to Amsterdam's prime Zuidas financial services business district after Unilever's decision to move its London headquarter operations to the Netherlands, according to PwC. The international accountacy and consultancy group told the Financieele Dagblad on Friday that Unilever's selection of Rotterdam as its sole headquarters will swell the ranks of advisory services such as tax experts, lawyers and accountants. PwC's chief economist Jan Willem Velthuijsen said the set up of any headquarters operation in the country sparked extra business for the financial services industry. Although Unilever has always operated as a single business, it maintained headquarters both in London and Rotterdam since its founding in 1930. On Thursday the soup-to-soap giant opted to have a single headquarters unit in the Netherlands. Velthuijsen said personal contacts and networking were major factors in building up consultancy services. 'People know one another from university or meet at networking events. Companies needing a lawyer usually select one near their own headquarters.  And the decision-makers  are found at headquarters. They hire the consultants and lawyers,' he said. 'Having the Unilever headquarters in the Netherlands will not create many jobs. What is important is that decisions will be made here,' said Maurice de Kleer, chairman of the Netherlands tax advisers association.  More >

Prime minister welcome's Unilever decision

Bird flu found on factory farm in Groningen, 36,000 birds destroyed The decision by Unilever to concentrate its headquarter operations in Rotterdam and close its London HQ has been welcomed by prime minister Mark Rutte and other members of the government. The decision is 'good news', Rutte said on Thursday. It is very important that the headquarters is here, because this is where the decisions are taken, he told broadcaster NOS, adding that eventually it will create more jobs further down the line. Rutte, who used to work for Unilever before entering politics, said that the decision did not mean the Netherlands should now cancel its decision to remove the tax on dividends - a move that will cost the treasury €1.4bn. 'We did not just do it for Unilever. We want to attract as many headquarters as possible to the Netherlands,' broadcaster NOS quoted the prime minister as saying. The prime minister has said repeatedly in the past that the decision to get rid of the tax on dividends is a matter of principle rather than doing someone a favour, referring to claims that multinationals such as Shell and Unilever had put pressure on the government. Blackmail But GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver was quick to make the connection, describing the situation as 'blackmail politics'. 'The result is the Netherlands is €1.4bn worse off for not more jobs,' Klaver said. Fewer than 50 Unilever jobs are reportedly moving from London to the Netherlands. The ruling parties welcomed Unilever's decision, as did the Labour party. 'Great news that Unilever has opted for Rotterdam. Let us now invest that €1.4bn in dividend tax in the Netherlands rather than give it as a gift to foreign investors,' Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher said. Hans de Boer, chairman of the biggest employers organisation VNO-NCW said the Unilever decision is a boost for the Netherlands' reputation as a good place to locate an international company. 'Headquarters breed top talent,' he said. Single board Unilever has maintained separate headquarters in Rotterdam and London since it was founded in 1930 but has always operated as a single business with a single board of directors. The British government had been lobbying hard to keep Unilever in London as ‘proof’ to others that Britain remained a good place for corporate investment.  More >