Shell shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a plan to move its headquarters from the Netherlands to the UK as only a handful of votes were cast against the proposal.
Shell said that 99.7% of the shareholders who voted on the topic had decided they wanted to back the move.
The plan will reform the company’s current complicated structure which is a hangover from a merger in 2005 between UK and Dutch wings of the business that had previously been separate legal entities.
Until now the oil major has been incorporated in the UK, had Dutch tax residency, and sold two types of shares on three stock exchanges.
To make this company perform better for the Netherlands is part of the reason we’re making this changeSir Andrew Mackenzie, Shell chairman
The changes will keep the business listed in London, Amsterdam and New York, but merge the shares into one type.
It will also move the business’s tax residency to the UK.
Shell argues that the dual-class share structure is both confusing for investors and limiting for the company.
By scrapping it the company will be able to buy back more shares from its investors. At the moment its buybacks are capped at around £1.8 billion every three months.
But perhaps the main reason is a 15% dividend tax that the Dutch government slaps on multinational giants such as the oil company.
There are now moves in the Netherlands to potentially scrap the tax, but the same has been proposed in the past. In 2017 an effort by the prime minister to remove the tax was abandoned.
Some also speculated that the company was trying to get away from the Netherlands where it was recently successfully sued over its climate targets.
The court ordered it to slash emissions much more quickly than the business had originally planned.
Shell denies that the move is an effort to get away from that ruling, or from any other legal challenges.
“Our move has nothing to do with the considerations you’re talking about there,” chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie told a shareholder who asked about the case on Friday.
He also said the business was still committed to the Netherlands, despite the move.
“We will stay in the Netherlands, we like the Netherlands,” Sir Andrew said.
“To make this company perform better for the Netherlands is part of the reason we’re making this change.”
He added: “We do want to keep this wonderful company close to this wonderful country.”
After the vote tally was announced, Sir Andrew said: “A final board decision will be taken following completion of the consultation with the relevant Shell staff councils.
“The board intends to proceed with the simplification as soon as reasonably practicable provided that it remains, in the board’s view, in the best interests of the company and shareholders as a whole.
“In making its final decision, the board will take into account all relevant factors.”