Unilever NV shareholders vote overwhelmingly for unification

Credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW

Unilever NV shareholders in the Netherlands have approved a plan to end its dual-headed corporate structure and form a single London-based entity, the Anglo-Dutch company said.

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AMSTERDAM, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Unilever NV UNA.AS shareholders in the Netherlands have approved a plan to end its dual-headed corporate structure and form a single London-based entity, the Anglo-Dutch company said.

The proposal passed with 99.39% of shares voted, Unilever said on Monday during an extraordinary shareholder meeting, which was streamed online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The maker of Dove soap, Surf detergent and Ben & Jerry's ice cream hopes to unify on Nov. 22, ending 90 years as a hybrid since Britain's soap-making Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie in the Netherlands.

For it to go ahead it must also be approved by investors in Britain's Unilever Plc ULVR.L, who are due to vote on Oct. 12 on the proposal.

Unilever says that the dual structure hampers its ability to conduct acquisitions and disposals quickly, such as the planned sale of its 3 billion euros per year tea business.

Chief Executive Alan Jope said Unilever would press on with its plans despite a proposal from a Dutch opposition party to impose an "exit tax" if it quits the Netherlands.

Jope repeated that the tax proposal is at an early stage and Unilever believes it would violate international law.

However, he said Unilever could always cancel the merger up to the moment of a high court approval hearing if the law were passed. Unilever says such a tax could cost it up to 11 billion euros and would be a reason to stop the unification.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Louise Heavens and Alexander Smith)

((toby.sterling@thomsonreuters.com; +31 20 504 5002;))

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