Thursday 09 December 2021

Shell decision to move to the UK is an ‘unpleasant surprise’, minister says

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Shell’s decision to move its headquarters to Britain and ditch the ‘Royal Dutch’ part of its official name has raised both questions and concerns in the Netherlands, with the government saying it had been unpleasantly surprised by the news.

‘We are in talks with Shell about the consequences for jobs, crucial investment and sustainability,’ economic affairs minister Stef Blok said. ‘These are extremely important issues.’

Employers organisation VNO-NCW has described the move as an ‘enormous blood-letting’ for the Netherlands and that it hoped a solution will be found to keep the company.

Shell, which is already technically British on paper, has taken the decision to simplify its current share structure, because of the restrictions the current system imposes on current operations, chief executive Ben van Beurden told the Financieele Dagblad.

The Netherlands’ decision not to phase out the tax on dividends may also have had a role. Simplifying the structure and keeping the headquarters in The Hague was not an option because all shareholders would then have to pay dividend tax in the Netherlands, he said.

Today we no longer have the luxury of saying to shareholders “you know what: this is easier for us, too bad for you”,’ he said. ‘We have enough problems in the sector. We cannot afford to upset shareholders.’

Treasury

The move will cost the treasury hundreds of millions of euros in dividend tax a year, Leiden tax law professor Jan van de Streek told Trouw on Monday afternoon.

Van Beurden also said that the ‘negative sentiment’ towards Shell and other large companies had not had a role in the decision, although he was disappointed in the lack of national pride and recognition for the advances the company has made.

Nor, he said, is there any link with the recent court case, in which Shell was ordered to cut its carbon dioxide emissions more quickly than it had planned.

Dutch civil service pension fund ABP also said last month it would no longer invest in fossil fuels.

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