Unilever to base headquarters in the Netherlands

Unilever to base headquarters in the Netherlands

THE HAGUE-The Associated Press
Unilever to base headquarters in the Netherlands

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods multinational whose vast stable of brands includes Dove, Knorr and Ben & Jerry’s, is basing its headquarters in the Netherlands, ending its longstanding structure of having head offices in both Rotterdam and London, the company announced on March 15.

While there had been speculation that Unilever could opt to base itself on mainland Europe because of Britain’s departure from the European Union, the company did not mention Brexit in its announcement. It said the move is part of a raft of structural changes that will turn the company into “a simpler, more agile and more focused business.”

Unilever launched a far-reaching review of its business after rival Kraft Heinz launched an ultimately unsuccessful $143 billion hostile takeover bid early last year.

The company said that its employment of 7,300 people in Britain and 3,100 people in the Netherlands would be unaffected by the changes. Worldwide, Unilever employs nearly 170,000 people. The company had sales in 2017 of more than 50 billion euros ($62 billion).

Unilever was formed in 1930 by a business merger of the Dutch Margarine Unie and Britain’s Lever Brothers. That led to the company’s dual identity - with Unilever PLC in Britain and Unilever NV in the Netherlands technically separate companies but operating together thanks to a raft of agreements that allow them to share everything from brands and technology to identical boards of directors.

Unilever said it will now create three divisions - Beauty and Personal Care, Home Care and Foods and Refreshment, with the first two divisions based in London The company said that decision “secures nearly 1 billion pounds (1.1 billion euros) per year of continued spend in the UK.”

The chairman of Unilever’s board, Marijn Dekkers, said the board, “believes the move to three divisions and the simplification of our corporate structure will create a simpler, more agile and more focused company with increased strategic flexibility for value-creating portfolio change.”

Dekkers added that the changes “further strengthen Unilever’s corporate governance, creating for the first time in our history a ‘one share, one vote’ principle for all our shareholders.”