September 28, 2018 / 2:45 PM / 18 days ago

Another big shareholder opposes Unilever's Dutch plan

LONDON (Reuters) - Another top-10 Unilever (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) shareholder declared its opposition to the group’s proposal to base a new single headquarters in the Netherlands, becoming the fifth big investor to publicly criticize the board’s plan.

FILE PHOTO: A stone motif can be seen on the front of the Unilever building in central London, Britain, March 15, 2018. REUTERS/ Hannah McKay/File Photo

Legal & General Investment Management, one of Europe’s largest asset managers, on Friday said it intended to vote against Unilever’s proposed move next month.

“We understand Unilever has explored a number of alternatives in reaching its final decision. However, we do not believe Unilever has made a compelling case for many PLC shareholders to support the recommendation in favor of Dutch incorporation,” Sacha Sadan, director of corporate governance at LGIM, said in a statement.

LGIM said it worked with the Investor Forum on this issue.

The Investor Forum - a nonprofit group that facilitates engagement between UK companies and institutional investors - confirmed that “members have escalated concerns regarding Unilever” and that it “has engaged, on their behalf, with the company”.

LGIM is the sixth-biggest shareholder in Unilever PLC, with a 1.98 percent stake, according to Reuters data. The group has total assets of 984.8 billion pounds ($1.28 trillion) under management.

It follows Lindsell Train, Columbia Threadneedle, M&G Investment Management and Aviva Investors Global Services in voicing dissatisfaction with the proposal. Together, the five investors control 7.41 percent of Unilever’s UK-listed shares.

Two main practical concerns are around the forced selling of Unilever shares by some British investors because Unilever will drop out of the benchmark FTSE 100 index, and the future tax treatment of Dutch dividends.

In order for the proposal to pass, it needs approval from a majority of shareholders, who control at least 75 percent of the UK shares. It only needs approval from 50 percent of the Dutch shares.

Earlier this week, the maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap launched a media charm offensive aimed at bringing shareholders on side.

Sky News on Friday reported that several large institutional investors are drawing up plans to oppose the re-election of Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers next year. ($1 = 0.7692 pounds)

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Adrian Croft/Keith Weir

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