Unilever shareholders agree to UK relocation

Unilever head office in Rotterdam
Photo: Dmitry Rukhlenko / Shutterstock.com

Unilever's Dutch shareholders agree to move the FMCG producer to London. Despite the threat of a departure penalty of 11 billion euros, the shareholders voted almost unanimously in favour.


Green light in the Netherlands

At Unilever's Dutch shareholders' meeting more than 99% voted in favour of the move to the UK, according to RTL. The vote was an important step in the so-called "unification" of the brand manufacturer, which wants to move away from its dual British-Dutch structure. After negotiations with both governments and consultation rounds with the company's shareholders, the decision has now been made to become fully British.

The British shareholders now also have to give their formal consent. This will be done at a shareholders' meeting on 12 October. In principle, following their green light, Unilever should be able to cross the Channel definitively by 22 November.


Penalty of 11 billion euros?

Even though a legislative proposal is still trying to throw a spanner in the works in the Netherlands: the GroenLinks party wants to introduce an 'exit levy' whereby companies leaving the Netherlands will have to pay a penalty. For Unilever, the fine could amount to 11 billion euros. Shareholders would have to pay a dividend tax, which the company would have to collect and pay over several years.

However, one of the reasons for moving to London was precisely because there would then be no additional dividend tax for investors. Unilever calls the proposal contrary to European rules (including those on the free movement of capital) and the tax treaty between the UK and the Netherlands, but legal experts fear that these arguments are incorrect. If the proposal is passed by parliament, the company has already promised to abandon its relocation plans.