While the blues enthusiast prepares for a crunch voice on leaving Britain, it is … D-day for Unilever
James Burton for the daily mail
Investors will be asked within a few days whether Unilever will have to shift its legal base abroad – thus ending decades-long status as an avid part of the London blue-chip index.
Shareholders will receive a document on Tuesday with the fine details of a plan to undermine the double head office in Rotterdam and London that existed since the consumer goods group was formed by an Anglo-Dutch merger of 89 years ago.
Instead, chief executive Paul Polman wants the company – which makes everything from Magnum ice cream to Dove deodorant – to have one legal headquarters in Rotterdam. The step is to simplify the company, which is listed on both the British and Dutch stock exchanges.
But it means that Unilever is no longer included in the FTSE 100 list of the largest public companies in Great Britain for the first time since the introduction of the index in 1984.
Many large British investment companies are only allowed to buy Footsie shares, including pension funds that provide millions of cash savings from savers, which means they will lose their Unilever stake.
The move has enraged many top people who want to hold their investment.
It paved the way for a bitter public battle over the plan of 62-year-old Dutchman Polman.
Half of the investors holding shares in the Dutch equity market must give their approval and are generally expected to do so. But Polman also needs support from 75 percent of the shareholders who own their shares through the London Stock Exchange in a vote next month. It is believed that more than 25 percent of investors could be forced to sell Unilever shares once the rules are in place – possibly enough to beat the proposal if they all voted against it. And at least one major shareholder is considering that.
Another, Columbia Threadneedle, has expressed concern.
In March, Iain Richards, head of responsible investing: & # 39; They (Unilever) should do more to convince British shareholders of the benefits of the move. & # 39;
Unsubscribe ?: Shareholders receive documents in which the plan is set out to interrupt the double head office in Rotterdam and London
Father-of-three Polman claims that the decision will improve corporate governance and accountability. But critics claim that Polman wants to move to the Netherlands to make it more difficult for predators to take over the consumer goods. Unilever fought last year a hostile bid from the American food company Kraft in a bloodshed that managers do not want to repeat.
If shareholders abandon the plan, it is a crushing blow for Polman, who had paid £ 10.4 million last year. The shares rose by 0.5 percent or 21.5p to 4245p.