Unilever shareholder hits out at poor engagement over Dutch move

A major Unilever shareholder has lashed out at the company's lack of engagement over its decision to move its corporate headquarters from London to Rotterdam.

Columbia Threadneedle, a top 10 shareholder in the consumer goods giant, said Unilever needs to do more to convince investors about the move.

Iain Richards, head of responsible investment at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, said: "We're disappointed by Unilever's lack of engagement with shareholders ahead of its decision to restructure, particularly in view of the likely impact on its premium listing in London.

"Given the potential implications and need for 75% approval, they need to do more to convince UK shareholders of the merits of the move."

Workplace Wellbeing Conference
Workplace Wellbeing Conference

Unilever last week confirmed it had chosen Rotterdam over London as its new legal headquarters, dealing a major blow to the UK Government as it tries to uphold Britain's status as a centre for business after Brexit.

Unilever's board, headed by chief executive Paul Polman, has recommended shareholders vote in favour of the move, which will see Rotterdam become the firm's primary legal base and headquarters.

But the decision has raised questions over whether it can retain its premium and FTSE 100 listing following the relocation, despite Unilever stating its intention to do so.

The review of Unilever's dual-headed legal structure in the UK and the Netherlands was part of a rethink by the business following a hostile takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz last year.

Unilever executives claim the move to Rotterdam has "nothing to do with Brexit", but the decision has caused embarrassment for the Conservatives and Prime Minister Theresa May, who is struggling to contain a flow of businesses and their staff to the EU.