Unilever is facing further opposition to its move from London to Rotterdam as another shareholder signalled its intention to vote against the plan.
Royal London Asset Management has joined a chorus of investors in opposing the proposal, which will see the Ben & Jerry’s owner scrap its Anglo-Dutch dual listing and relocate its headquarters to the Netherlands.
Unilever might be able to convince European shareholders that the move makes sense for the company and for them as investors in the long term, but it’s hard for a UK investor to see an incentive to vote in favourMike Fox, Royal London Asset Management
Mike Fox, head of sustainable investments at Royal London Asset Management, said: “Many UK Unilever shareholders voting for the upcoming resolution are effectively voting for forced divestment of their holding.
“Unilever might be able to convince European shareholders that the move makes sense for the company and for them as investors in the long term, but it’s hard for a UK investor to see an incentive to vote in favour.
“We think that Unilever is a high-quality company, both in its own right and as a key constituent of a number of UK indices, and have therefore decided to vote against the upcoming resolution.”
The asset manager owns 0.72% of Unilever, worth approximately £360 million.
Royal London also warned that, should the motion succeed, it would be forced to sell its holding in Unilever across a number of funds, something not in the interest of its clients.
A growing number of shareholders have come out against the move in recent weeks, setting up a showdown for when investors vote on the plans on October 25 and 26.
Those voicing their disdain include Columbia Threadneedle, Legal &General Investment Management, Aviva Investors, Lindsell Train, M&G Investments, and Brewin Dolphin.
Unilever first announced plans to “simplify” the business from two legal entities into a single one, incorporated in Rotterdam, in March.
It dealt a major blow to the UK Government and its efforts to uphold Britain’s status as a centre for business after Brexit.
But Unilever has insisted the move to Rotterdam has “nothing to do with Brexit”.
It also said at the time that its 7,300 workers in the UK and 3,100 in the Netherlands will be unaffected by the changes.
Unilever, which is behind well-known household brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Lipton teas, employs around 169,000 people around the world.
If the firm goes ahead with the restructure, Unilever’s shares are unlikely to continue trading in the FTSE 100 in the wake of the move.
Without a UK headquarters, Unilever is expected to fall short of requirements which would allow a listing on the FTSE 100, where its shares currently trade.
The shares would continue to trade on the London Stock Exchange, but would no longer be listed on a benchmark index.