The Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam. © Google
Unilever has chosen the Netherlands over the UK for its global headquarters as it simplifies from two legal entities into one Dutch corporate entity.
The company, which owns brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr and Magnum, announced last April that it would review its dual-headed structure in the UK and the Netherlands as part of the fallout from Kraft Heinz’s failed $143 billion approach.
The transition will see Unilever’s two legal entities – a UK PLC and a Dutch NV – become one unit incorporated in the Netherlands. The company said this reflects the fact that shares in NV account for around 55% of the group’s combined ordinary share capital.
Critics will see the move, which has been in the pipeline for weeks, as a sign of decreasing confidence in the UK as a result of Brexit. The country has a little more than a year to renegotiate the terms of its withdrawal from the EU.
UK officials had been in talks with Unilever to try and convince it to keep its headquarters in London. But the company’s chairman Marijn Dekkers and CEO Paul Polman are both Dutch, while Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who has lobbied Unilever to make Rotterdam its sole headquarters, is a former employee.
Unilever stressed that the employment of 7,300 people in the UK and 3,100 people in the Netherlands will be unaffected by the changes.
As part of the transition, Unilever will consist of three divisions: beauty and personal care, home care, and foods and refreshment. The company said the simplification will provide greater flexibility for strategic portfolio change and help drive long-term performance.
Unilever chairman Marijn Dekkers said: “Unilever’s board is fully committed to delivering long-term performance and sustainable value for shareholders. The board believes the move to three divisions and the simplification of our corporate structure will create a simpler, more agile and more focused company with increased strategic flexibility for value-creating portfolio change.
“Our decision to headquarter the divisions in the UK and the Netherlands underscores our long-term commitment to both countries. The changes announced today also further strengthen Unilever’s corporate governance, creating for the first time in our history a ‘one share, one vote’ principle for all our shareholders.”
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