Unilever scraps plans to move HQ to Europe after shareholder pressure

Colman's Mustard maker Unilever has abandoned plans to move its corporate headquarters to Europe. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Colman's Mustard maker Unilever has abandoned plans to move its corporate headquarters to Europe. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Colman’s Mustard maker Unilever has scrapped plans to move its corporate headquarters to the Netherlands following pressure from shareholders.

The consumer goods giant, which is closing its Norwich factory next year, said it was withdrawing the proposal to “simplify” its dual-headed Anglo-Dutch legal structure, which would have seen its corporate base move from London to Rotterdam.

Several shareholders have put pressure on the company over the plans in past few weeks including Aviva Investors, Brewin Dolphin, Royal London, Columbia Threadneedle, Legal & General Investment Management, Lindsell Train and M&G Investments.

Unilever said on Friday: “We have had an extensive period of engagement with shareholders and have received widespread support for the principle behind simplification.

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

Had the move gone ahead, Unilever’s shares were unlikely to have continued trading on the FTSE 100.

But following the announcement its shares were up around 1% at 4,116p.

Chairman Marijn Dekkers said that the board continues to believe simplifying Unilever’s structure is in the firm’s best interests.

He said: “Unilever has built a long track record of consistent and competitive performance. The board continues to believe that simplifying our dual-headed structure would, over time, provide opportunities to further accelerate value creation and serve the best long-term interests of Unilever.

“The board will now consider its next steps and will continue to engage with our shareholders. We will proceed with the plan to cancel the NV preference shares, further strengthening our corporate governance.”

Unilever first announced plans to simplify the business from two legal entities into a single one, incorporated in Rotterdam, in March.

It dealt a major blow to the UK government and its efforts to uphold Britain’s status as a centre for business after Brexit.

However, Unilever has throughout insisted the move to Rotterdam was “nothing to do with Brexit”.

It also said at the time that its 7,300 workers in the UK and 3,100 in the Netherlands would be unaffected by the changes.

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