(Corrects currency in UK investment to pounds from dollars)
By Martinne Geller
LONDON, May 2 (Reuters) - Unilever defended its plan to move its headquarters to the Netherlands at what could be its last London annual general meeting on Wednesday, saying the decision had nothing to do with protectionism or Dutch takeover rules.
Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers repeated that the choice of the Netherlands, announced in March, was aimed at strategic flexibility rather than protectionism.
If the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream had a protective mindset for incorporating in the Netherlands, it would not have sought to cancel existing Dutch preference shares that allowed certain shareholders a greater voice than others, Dekkers said.
He said that decision illustrated that Unilever was not chasing protectionism.
Despite having had a dual-headed Anglo-Dutch structure for 88 years, Dekkers said the structure was a hindrance in a fast-changing retail and consumer environment.
Shareholders are expected to vote on the matter around the end of the third quarter, with the move expected towards the end of the year. If completed, next year’s annual meeting would take place in the Netherlands.
Dekkers emphasised that Britain remains very important for the company, which will have two of its business units based in London and will continue to spend 1 billion pounds ($1.36 billion) a year in resources in the country. ($1 = 0.7344 pounds) (Reporting by Martinne Geller Editing by David Goodman/Adrian Croft)