Consumer goods giant Unilever HQ leaves London for Rotterdam
Unilever, the transnational corporation which manufactures several very well-known household grocery products such as Flora, Hellmans', Domestos, Dove and more, plans to move its international headquarters to Rotterdam, from London.
16 March 2018
Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever has chosen Rotterdam over London for the location of its global HQ as part of a major corporate restructuring program. The two locations currrently serve as co-HQs for the company, which has been in existence for almost 90 years, when soap company Lever Brothers merged with margarine producer Margarine Unie.
The restructuring will see Unilever subdivided into three divisions: Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care and Food & Refreshment. In a statement, the corporation said that each division will be “empowered with greater responsibility for making long-term strategic choices, and managing financial performance”.
While Unilever’s main HQ and its Food division will be located in Rotterdam, it will maintain its offices in London, where the Beauty & Personal Care and Home Care divisions will be based.
The immediate and easy reaction to this news would bet to assume that Unilever is upping sticks to get out of London ahead of Brexit, but the company’s chief executive Paul Polman stressed that this is not the case. He said the company has no plan to lose any of its 10,000+ employees in either country, that Unilever would continue to pay tax in the UK and would also be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Polman said that the decision to move HQ to the Netherlands came after a year-long review. Last year, Unilever successfully fended off a £100+ billion takeover attempt by US food giant Kraft Heinz last year, and since then the company has been reviewing its options to prevent this happening again. According to the Guardian, the Netherlands’ fiduciary laws protect companys better against hostile takeovers with its complex “poison pill” defence.
Even if this is the case, the loss of such a high-profile global HQ from London will come as a blow to Brexit negotiators, and perhaps shake the confidence of other multinationals as they all consider their futures in The City.