MAGGIE PAGANO: There is still time to prevent Unilever from becoming Dutch

Unilever Rotterdam base. Investors have six weeks to go through the small print of the prospectus to decide if they want to share their blessing on the company's plan to close its British base

When the British soap manufacturer Lever Brothers merged with the Dutch company Margarine Unie to create Unilever in 1929, both companies kept their domestic stock lists.

Since then, Unilever has had a double list of two holding companies in London and NV in the Netherlands.

In any way, the Anglo-Dutch combo has been a great success.

The company has grown as Topsy and has decorated well-known brands around the world, from Marmite to Dove to Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It is now worth a value of £ 115 billion.

Unilever Rotterdam base. Investors have six weeks to go through the small print of the prospectus to decide if they want to share their blessing on the company's plan to close its British base

Unilever Rotterdam base. Investors have six weeks to go through the small print of the prospectus to decide if they want to share their blessing on the company's plan to close its British base

Then the American Kraft Heinz tried to unleash the giant last year and have Unilever's top team make a tail rotation.

Kraft failed in his attempt, but the movement was so afraid of the Unilever government that it decided to revise its corporate structure.

This led to his controversial decision to move his place of residence and headquarters to Rotterdam – a movement that caused indignation here because of the blow to Britain's status as a business center after the Brexit and the loss of the FTSE 100 reputation of to maintain the city.

But also because of a sneaky promise from the Dutch government to cancel withholding tax on dividends.

That promise – which has yet to be delivered – may have driven the board, sealed its plan, confirmed yesterday, killed life as a British PLC stock, abandoned the FTSE 100 and went to Dutch.

This would be a disaster. Unilever shares are an important ingredient in most active and passive pension funds as one of the stars of the FTSE 100, the All-Share index and the FTSE 350. It is also a big hit among small shareholders because of the solid dividend income.

Investors have six weeks to go through the small print of the prospectus to decide whether to give Unilever their blessing during the extraordinary meetings of October.

They should not. There are many reasons why they should block the vote, which requires a 75 percent majority for the UK plc.

The signs are good. Many investors are not happy with the move, because the switch discriminates against British shareholders.

Investors such as Columbia Threadneedle and Lindsell Train say they want London to remain the first entry.

Others say that so private. They do not buy Unilever claims that they have no choice but to move because of liquidity or because there are more Dutch investors than Britons.

The facts are these. Tracker funds with $ 200 billion follow Unilever via the FTSE 100, All Share and 350 indices.

However, only $ 84 billion will follow the Dutch shares on the Euronext 50. There is no competition. Many active investors will simply stop buying their shares if they are not in the FTSE 100.

Fund managers are also skeptical about claims that more than half of the shares are held by Dutch investors.

They point to figures showing that less than 30 percent of the trade volume via Amsterdam is, that 40 percent is over-the-counter trade and another part on pan-European multilateral trading facilities (MTF) platforms such as Turquoise – owned by the London Stock Exchange.

They also address Unilever's claim that US investors prefer to hold Dutch euro denominated shares in pounds. This is absurd, since almost a third of the FTSE 100 is owned by US investors.

Investors still have a chance to kill this terrible plan.

Great Britain in the elevator

There is more clear news about the economy after the growth rates of 0.6 percent in July.

The number of unemployed people has fallen again, while the number of young people without work is at the lowest level since the start of the records in 1992.

Wages are on track again and are growing faster than inflation by 2.9 percent, the highest in three years. With an inflation rate of 2.5 percent for July, real wage growth rose by 0.5 percent.

At last the competition for employees starts to work towards wages.

Top Mark

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, got a lot of criticism because of his over-the-top role in pushing Remain during the Project Fear campaign.

But after the Brexit he is one of the UK's most powerful champions in EU negotiations, arguing that the city is too big and too important to be governed by e-mail from Brussels.

So it is to be welcomed that Carney will continue to see through Brexit until 2020.

The unreliable friend has become reasonably reliable, if not overwhelmed.

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