The Strategist

Unilever refuses to consolidate

10/05/2018 - 16:11

Unilever, one of the world's largest producers of consumer goods, on Friday announced that the company refused its plan to merge British and Dutch operating companies against the backdrop of opposition from a number of major shareholders.

Earlier it was planned that Unilever would simplify the corporate structure and merge the two currently existing independent structures - the Netherlands Unilever NV and the British Unilever Plc - into a single New Unilever NV company with its headquarters in Rotterdam.

Rejecting this intention is an unexpected surrender for the outgoing chief executive officer Paul Polman, who made consolidation his swan song in Unilever. Refusing the unfriendly takeover by the American rival Kraft Heinz Co., Polman and the board of directors began a strategic business review, following which they decided to move to a single structure as more flexible, Dow Jones notes.

However, in recent weeks, several major Unilever institutional investors have announced that they would oppose this plan during a shareholder vote scheduled for late October. This raised questions about whether the company would get enough support for its plan.

Opponents include Aviva, M&G, Legal & General, Schroders, Lindsell Train, Columbia Threadneedle and Royal London Asset Management, which collectively own about 10% of the company's shares.

On Friday, Unilever abandoned its intention to consolidate the business, saying that a single structure could cost it a place in the FTSE 100 stock index, which features the largest UK companies. This would lead to sale of Unilever shares by a number of investment funds that tie their portfolios to indices.

The company said that it still considers simplifying its structure as the best solution in the long term, but now it will study further steps and communicate with shareholders.

Unilever stock quotes fell by 0.3% in London on Friday, and rose 0.6% in Amsterdam. The company is also listed in New York.


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