Unilever sets date in November for switch to single London corporate HQ

Marmite-to-Ben & Jerry’s giant Unilever has said the move to end its Anglo-Dutch structure and establish a single headquarters in London is set to complete in November.

The consumer goods group confirmed it expects to complete the switch to one corporate and legal HQ over the weekend of November 21 and 22.

It will hold an extraordinary general meeting on September 21 for investors in the Netherlands to vote on the plan, while UK-based Unilever plc shareholder meetings will take place on October 12.

Unilever announced the decision in June – less than two years after it was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on a previous proposal to switch its HQ from London to Rotterdam in 2018 following widespread shareholder anger.

The group’s former chief executive, Paul Polman, and previous chairman, Marijn Dekkers, both quit soon after the botched plan.

Unilever – the group behind a raft of household names – said at the time of the June announcement that its “strong presence in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will remain unchanged”, with no plans for staffing, operations or activities to be affected.

But the move will mean the end of a dual Anglo-Dutch structure that has been in place since 1930, with London becoming the single site for its legal and corporate HQs.

It will also see the firm have its primary stock market listing in London, with a secondary listing in the Netherlands and the US.

Unilever said at the time that shifting to a single legal structure would give it “greater strategic flexibility”, allowing it to be more nimble for takeovers as well as demergers.

A month after the announcement, Unilever revealed it had decided to spin off its tea business by the end of 2021, though it will retain its tea operations in India and Indonesia and partnership interests in the ready-to-drink tea joint ventures.

The group’s tea business includes household brands PG Tips, Lipton and Brooke Bond.

Unilever employs around 6,000 people in the UK and some 2,500 in the Netherlands.

It is split into three businesses – the home care and beauty and personal care divisions, which are based in the UK, and the food and refreshment arm in the Netherlands.

The London and Rotterdam headquarters of these divisions will not be affected by the so-called unification plan.