The long-standing rumour has now been confirmed: Unilever will have its main office in Rotterdam, rather than London. The food and detergent giant’s board has made the call after nearly a year of debate.
Consolation price for London
Parent company to many well-known brands, like Axe, Knorr and Dove, Unilever used to have two main offices: one in London and one in Rotterdam, a remainder of its merger in 1930. Back then, Dutch Margarine Unie and British Lever Brothers joined forces, but it has now chosen a single main office, in Rotterdam.
The decision has to protect the company from hostile take-over, like the one from competitor Kraft Heinz last year. It has partially chosen for the Netherlands, because that country has more legislation to help companies fend off unwanted acquisitions.
London gets to hold on to the divisional main offices for the ‘Beauty & Personal Care Division’ and the ‘Home Care Division’, which will keep a 1.2 billion euro budget in the United Kingdom, Unilever said. The food division’s main office was already in Rotterdam and will stay put.
One plc according to Dutch law
Unilever will also simplify its legal company structure, from a PLC according to Dutch law and a PLC according to British law. “The Unilever of the Future” will become a PLC according to Dutch law. “This reflects the fact that the shares in N.V. account for approximately 55% of the group’s combined ordinary share capital , and trade with greater liquidity than PLC shares”, the company said.
It will not alter its listings and remain on the stock exchanges in London, Amsterdam and New York. Most employees will not feel anything from these changes: Unilever currently has 7,300 employees in the United Kingdom and 3,100 in the Netherlands.