Unilever has announced it will improve its structure by making its London and Amsterdam shares the same value, although it will retain its dual listing.
The consumer products giant said that alternative unitary structures did not offer any compelling benefits and the company would remain listed on both markets. However, the structure will become more flexible, allowing assets to move between companies and the shares will become the same value on both exchanges. Shareholders will also have the right to nominate candidates to the board.
Antony Burgmans, Chairman of Unilever, said, These changes will provide additional and important balance sheet and capital structure flexibility and will further improve elements of our corporate governance. The proposals will be put before shareholders in the annual general meeting in May. The company has already replaced its joint executive chairmen with a single non-executive chairman and a single group chief executive in a bid to be more competitive.
Unilever will also pool its pension scheme assets, according to a report in the Financial Times. The move will give the company greater control over the schemes, which currently have a GBP2 billion-GBP3 billion deficit. The pooling vehicle, Univest, will be controlled by Unilever officers and representatives from the company’s seven largest schemes.
The newspaper quoted Philip Lambert, head of Unilever corporate pensions, as saying, This is all about reducing risk. The complementary nature of combining fund managers lowers risk and optimizes the chances of returns.