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Unilever scraps plan to simplify Anglo-Dutch structure

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Unilever scraps plan to simplify Anglo-Dutch structure

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever Group on Oct. 5 said it had decided to abandon a plan to simplify the corporate structure of its listed entities, Unilever PLC and Unilever NV, and to move its headquarters to the Netherlands.

In a filing to the London Stock Exchange, Unilever said the board determined that the proposal to simplify Unilever's status had not received support from a significant group of shareholders.

In the statement, Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers reiterated that the board "continues to believe that simplifying our dual-headed structure would, over time, provide opportunities to further accelerate value creation and serve the best long-term interests of Unilever."

Unilever announced its restructuring in March 2018 following a yearlong review sparked by an unsolicited $143 billion takeover attempt by The Kraft Heinz Co. in January 2017. The approach was thwarted but highlighted the constraints of Unilever's structure, including its ability to make changes to its portfolio through sales and acquisitions.

Unilever, the maker of Dove soaps, Magnum ice creams and Surf laundry detergents, said the proposed simplification would provide it with greater flexibility for strategic portfolio change and to help drive long-term performance.

But some of the biggest shareholders of London-listed Unilever PLC have made clear their intentions to vote against the proposal at an extraordinary general meeting to be held Oct. 25-26. Shareholder advisory services in the U.K. have added their voices to the chorus of opposition.

The proposal, which would have relocated the head offices from London to Rotterdam and united the shares of Unilever PLC and Amsterdam-listed Unilever NV as a single stock, would have resulted in the removal of Unilever PLC from the blue-chip FTSE 100 index and forced those investors that follow benchmarks to sell their U.K.-listed shares.

The company said it is proceeding with its plan to cancel Unilever NV's preference shares to strengthen the group's corporate governance.