Nov 28, 2017

Unilever to delay picking UK or Netherlands for sole base

Unilever's board is to delay a decision on whether to choose the UK or the Netherlands for its headquarters on account of political emotions running high in Europe. Unilever's dual-headed legal structure stems from the 1929 merger of the UK's Lever Brothers with Margarine Unie of the Netherlands and the group has deep roots in both countries, each of which regard it as their own. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who once worked for Unilever, has been active behind the scenes in urging the group to retain its headquarters in the Netherlands. The Conservative party's election manifesto pledge to review takeover rules was widely seen as a nod towards Mr Polman's concerns that UK rules were out of line with those in the Netherlands. Corporate lawyers say that companies do not have to have their primary stock market listing where they have their headquarters - raising the possibility that Unilever could eventually opt to have its HQ in the Netherlands but its primary listing in the UK. Analysts at UBS said: "Simplifying Unilever's legal structure could make equity issuance and/or de-mergers easier to undertake; and reduce complexity. We think increased optionality on strategic portfolio management has a value."

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