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September 29, 2020

Unilever reveals start date for UK HQ move after shareholder approval

Shareholders of Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever have voted on whether to approve changes to its corporate structure which would see its headquarters unified in London.

By Leonie Barrie

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has won the approval of shareholders for changes to its corporate structure which will see its headquarters unified in London.

In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange this morning (29 September), the Marmite and Ben & Jerry’s brands owner said it now expects the “cross-border merger” to become effective on 29 November.

That is subject to the move winning approval from the UK High Court, which, on 23 October, will determine whether pre-merger steps have been completed satisfactorily. Then on 2 November, the Court will convene to approve the cross-border merger.

Unilever announced plans to unify its group legal structure under a single parent company back in June. The move was backed by shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting on 21 September, although the company has not revealed what percentage of those who voted backed the move.

Alan Jope, the company’s CEO, said at the start of this month that he expected shareholder approval for the re-structuring to be forthcoming but, he also said if a law enacting an “exit tax” in the Netherlands is passed it could mean a rethink.

Its plan to unify its legal structure under a single entity headquartered in London has faced some opposition in the Netherlands, including a legal threat.

A law proposed by the opposition Green Left party would result in an EUR11bn (US$12.8bn) tax bill to the Dutch government.

Since Unilever’s formation in 1930, the company has been owned through two separately listed companies, a Dutch NV and a UK plc. The company now plans to create one class of shares.

Unilever has previously said the unification move will give it “strategic flexibility for portfolio evolution”, which may include acquisitions or “de-mergers”.

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