Unilever ditches plan to move to Rotterdam after shareholder pressure

Anglo Dutch group Unilever said on Friday it is ditching plans to consolidate its headquarter operations in Rotterdam following talks with shareholders.

The company said in a statement it is withdrawing a proposal to ‘simplify’ its dual structure. The decision comes three weeks of a shareholders meeting to approve the move.

Several large investors in the UK have come out against the decision to switch to Rotterdam and the company had been under considerable pressure to rethink.




‘We have had an extensive period of engagement with shareholders and have received widespread support for the principle behind simplification,’ the company said in a statement.

‘However, we recognise that the proposal has not received support from a significant group of shareholders and therefore consider it appropriate to withdraw.’

The decision not to move to Rotterdam will have repercussions for Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, whose determination to scrap the tax on dividends was part of a strategy to keep Unilever in the country.

And Unilever CEO Paul Polman told reporters on Friday that the public debate about the controversial measure had an impact on British shareholders.

‘The political discussion in the Netherlands about … the dividend tax has been a factor in some shareholders’ decisions not to support the [Unilever] board proposal,’ he is quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS.

Opposition MPs have been quick to react to Unilever’s decision. Socialist Party leader Lilian Marijnissen said the government’s only argument in favour of scrapping the dividend tax had now gone. ‘This unsavoury plan has to go,’ she said.

Brexit

Prime minister Mark Rutte defended the decision to scrap the tax by saying the move is essential to keep multinationals in the Netherlands and to attract more.

The government has not yet commented on Friday’s news. Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW said it is extremely sorry that ‘such an important decision has become swept up in the turbulent political developments in the UK.’

‘It is also an indication of what Brexit means, a hard fight for corporate locations,’ the organisation said.

Since it was founded in 1930, the Anglo-Dutch soups-to-soaps giant has maintained two separate headquarters – in London and in Rotterdam – as well as dual bourse listings and dual fiscal entities. But Unilever has always operated as a single business with a single board of directors.


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