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Unilever picks Rotterdam as Britain loses the battle before Brexit

Unilever picks Rotterdam as Britain loses the battle before Brexit

LONDON: Britain’s third biggest company Unilever picked Rotterdam over London for its main headquarters on Thursday in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government a year before Brexit.

The Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soap, Lipton teas and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream launched a review of its dual-headed structure in 2017 after fighting off a $143 billion takeover from Kraft Heinz, triggering a battle between Britain and the Netherlands.

Under the new plan, Unilever will continue to be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York, and will divide into three divisions, keeping two based in Britain. That will enable it to retain its 7,300 staff in the United Kingdom.

The company said the decision to end 88 years of two parent-ownership was not linked to Brexit or any form of protectionism, but would simplify its structure and facilitate acquisitions.




However, British unions and supporters of EU membership bemoaned what they said was a deterioration in Britain’s competitiveness at a time when tax code changes and strong anti-takeover laws have made the Netherlands increasingly attractive.

“Let me categorically say that this had nothing to do with Brexit,” Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers told reporters.

“The board takes a 30 to 50 year decision. We think both countries are highly attractive investment climates and we will continue to invest in both countries as a result of this,” the Dutchman added.

It is unclear whether Unilever can remain in the FTSE 100 Index of leading UK stocks, a decision which could hit its shares if tracker funds are forced to sell.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2018

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