Unilever, Britain’s third-biggest company, will close down its London corporate headquarters and make Rotterdam its sole legal home in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government ahead of Brexit.
Unilever last year announced a review of its dual-headed structure after rebuffing a $143 billion takeover offer from Kraft Heinz.
It said on Thursday it would divide the business into three divisions with 2 headquartered in London and one in Rotterdam. Unilever’s 7,300 staff in the UK will be unaffected and it will continue to be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York.
Still, the British government insisted Unilever’s decision to scrap its London HQ was not linked to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
In recent months, speculation about it choosing the Netherlands grew louder following the proposal of a tax change by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, himself a Unilever veteran, seen as benefiting Anglo-Dutch multinationals.
Unilever itself has said the change is about simplification, arguing a single entity would be more agile as it could more easily issue equity for large acquisitions or spin off unwanted businesses.
Of Unilever’s 161,000 employees worldwide, 7,300 are in the United Kingdom and 3,100 are in the Netherlands.