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Unilever NV Shareholders Vote Overwhelmingly For Unification

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.

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 22 November, 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, who are due to vote on 12 October on the proposal.

'Exit Tax'

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

News by Reuters edited by Checkout. Edited by Donna Ahern. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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