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PIRC advises investors to 'oppose' Unilever headquarters move to Netherlands

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PIRC advises investors to 'oppose' Unilever headquarters move to Netherlands
FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo   -   Copyright  Stringer .(Reuters)
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By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) – A leading proxy voting adviser said investors with London-listed shares of Unilever <ULVR.L> <UNc.AS> should oppose the consumer goods company’s plan to create a single holding company in the Netherlands.

The call by the influential advisory firm follows a series of public announcements in recent days from institutional investors concerned about the move.

Pensions & Investment Research Consultants Limited (PIRC), which advises pension schemes and other investors, said it was concerned about the impact on investors who would be forced to sell their shares.

“The company’s exclusion from the FTSE 100 may compel some shareholders to sell their shares at a price and time that is not of their choosing, effectively resulting in a forced selling decision,” PIRC said in a report.

With affected holders likely to be some of Unilever’s longest-standing investors, the board was being “short-sighted to presume that they have no voice”, PIRC said.

“Ultimately, it could be viewed that the (UK) PLC shareholders are being asked to consent to a takeover without a premium being paid,” it added. PIRC said it had issued separate guidance to holders of the Dutch shares backing the move.

Earlier on Wednesday, Royal London Asset Management said it would also vote against the plan, following similar statements from Legal & General Investment Management, Schroders and others.

For Unilever’s proposal to pass, it needs approval from 75 percent of the UK PLC’s voted shares, and 50 percent of the Dutch NV’s.

It also needs to be endorsed by a majority of shareholders.

If approved, at votes scheduled for Oct. 25 and 26, the existing shares would stop trading on Dec. 21, with the new shares beginning to trade on Dec. 24.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop; editing by Kirstin Ridley)

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