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Unilever bows to fund manager pressure to stay in the UK

Unilever has abandoned controversial plans to move its headquarters overseas after pressure from household names in the fund management industry.

Columbia Threadneedle, Schroders , Legal & General, M&G, Aviva Investors, Lindsell Train and Brewin Dolphin were just some of the major shareholders to have lined up against the proposals, which were due to be voted on later this month.

Estimates were that, combined, the managers who would have voted against the plan – which would have seen Unilever become a single entity incorporated in the Netherlands, ending its joint Anglo-Dutch structure – have a more than 10 per cent stake in the household goods giant.

In an announcement to the stock exchange this morning, the firm said that it had drawn up the proposal “to unlock value for our shareholders by creating a stronger, simpler and more competitive Unilever”.

“We have had an extensive period of engagement with shareholders and have received widespread support for the principle behind simplification,” the statement says. “However, we recognise that the proposal has not received support from a significant group of shareholders and therefore consider it appropriate to withdraw.”

An Investment Association spokesman says: “The feedback from many of our members has been that there was no compelling reason for shareholders to accept the proposed simplification in this form. They did not believe it would be in the long-term interests of their clients, and would have resulted in many shareholders being forced to sell their shares.

“We welcome the fact that Unilever has listened to the feedback from their shareholders and not pushed ahead with their plans. We look forward to engaging with the company on their future plans.”

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