May 2, 2018
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A third of Unilever Plc investors opposed executive pay policy

May 2, 2018

Shareholders in Unilever Plc approved its new executive pay policy on Wednesday, but with sizeable dissent at what could be the Anglo-Dutch giant’s last annual meeting in London.

Photo: Dove/ Instagram

The new policy, in which Unilever is moving to a “fixed pay” structure, was approved by 64.2 percent of the UK group’s shareholders, with nearly 35.8 percent opposing it. Shareholders in the Dutch Unilever NV will vote on Thursday.

Influential shareholder advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) had advised shareholders to vote against the remuneration policy, expressing concern about planned increases in fixed pay.

The sizeable rejection is a blow to a company already facing big questions from UK shareholders over its March decision to consolidate its headquarters in the Netherlands.

Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers defended that plan on Wednesday, saying the move had nothing to do with protectionism or Dutch takeover rules, as some observers have suspected.

Dekkers repeated the decision to collapse the dual-headed structure was aimed at strategic flexibility, and the Netherlands was a natural choice given the Dutch company accounts for 55 percent of the group and the Dutch shares trade with greater liquidity.

If the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream had a protective mindset for incorporating in the Netherlands, it would not have sought to cancel existing Dutch preference shares that allow certain shareholders a greater voice than others, Dekkers said.

Despite having had a dual-headed Anglo-Dutch structure for 88 years, Dekkers said it was now a hindrance in a fast-changing retail and consumer environment.

Shareholders are expected to vote on the matter around the end of the third quarter, with the move expected towards the end of the year. If completed, next year’s annual meeting would take place in the Netherlands.

Dekkers emphasized that Britain remained very important for the company, which will have two of its business units based in London and will continue to spend 1 billion pounds ($1.36 billion) a year in resources in the country.

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