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Top 10 Unilever shareholder may vote against plan to go Dutch

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Top 10 Unilever shareholder may vote against plan to go Dutch
FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo   -   Copyright  Stringer .(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) – Unilever <ULVR.L> <UNc.AS> shareholder Lindsell Train is likely to use at least some of its shares to vote against the company’s planned move to the Netherlands, which will cost the consumer goods giant its spot in the benchmark FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index.

“We admire Unilever as a company and have a high regard for its current executive team and board, but on this issue we will vote in the interests of our various clients as we judge appropriate,” Nick Train, co-founder of the British asset management firm, said in an emailed statement.

Train spelled out various reasons why its British clients would be disadvantaged by the move to end its dual-headed structure.

He said Unilever ceasing to be a benchmark, UK stock was “at the very least an inconvenience” for all UK funds, while those who only invest in the benchmark may become “forced sellers”.

Train also cited “a new risk” from the possibility of a Dutch withholding tax on dividends once Unilever redomiciles to the Netherlands.

He noted the mitigation Unilever has offered against this threat but said the company is not offering “a perpetuity guarantee” that shareholders will never suffer from future changes in Dutch tax policy.

Lindsell Train is the third-biggest shareholder in Unilever Plc, with a 2.38 percent stake, according to Thomson Reuters data. It did not give a breakdown on how many of its clients were based in Britain.

The Unilever move requires approval by 75 percent of UK shareholders and 50 percent of Dutch shareholders. The votes will take place on Oct. 25 in the Netherlands and Oct. 26 in London.

Unilever has said it is “very confident” of securing the required votes.

Unilever shares were down 0.2 percent in London at 1440 GMT.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Adrian Croft/Keith Weir)

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