Shareholders of Unilever UK have overwhelmingly supported the company’s plan to end its dual-headed structure and create a single entity based in London. With over 99% of shares voted in favor, this decision marks the end of a 90-year-old era for Unilever. The company has operated with a hybrid structure since the merger of Lever Brothers and Margarine Unie.

The main goal of unifying its structure is to enhance Unilever’s ability to efficiently engage in acquisitions and asset sales. This flexibility is crucial for the company’s strategic shift towards higher-growth areas such as premium beauty. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of this move.

The final steps towards the unification process involve UK High Court hearings and the cessation of trading for Dutch-listed shares. However, Unilever may face challenges from a proposed “exit tax” by a Dutch opposition party, potentially costing them up to 11 billion euros. Despite criticism from a top Dutch legal body, Unilever believes this proposed law is not viable.

This unification plan is a significant milestone for Unilever, as it started its restructuring efforts after a failed takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz in 2017. Previous attempts to unify in Rotterdam were hindered by tax and political considerations. With the UK’s departure from the European Union, completing the unification process quickly becomes even more urgent to minimize regulatory scrutiny.

Unilever aims to complete the unification process by November 29, marking a new chapter for the company. This step will provide them with the operational efficiency and flexibility needed to pursue growth opportunities effectively.

Useful links:
1. Unilever UK
2. Financial Times article on Unilever’s unification plan