The Guardian (UK): Unilever brings in advisers to consider dropping dual listing: “London is considered the most likely winner of the primary market listing, as it was with Shell. The Anglo-Dutch oil company is now registered in Britain but has its headquarters in The Hague.”: Monday September 19, 2005
Unilever has appointed the investment banks UBS and Rothschild to look at the corporate structure of the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods business to see whether it should drop its dual stock market listing, as Shell did this year.
The owner of Dove soap, Magnum ice cream and Surf detergent has just been through a board shake-up and last week announced a review of its frozen foods business after faltering sales growth.
UBS and Rothschild have been told to consider every available option, including a single stock market listing and a single headquarters rather than the present system based in both countries.
London is considered the most likely winner of the primary market listing, as it was with Shell. The Anglo-Dutch oil company is now registered in Britain but has its headquarters in The Hague. This year Unilever scrapped its twin board structure and moved to a more regular corporate model by appointing Anthony Burgsman as non-executive chairman while making Patrick Cescau chief executive. In February it announced annual profits had slumped by 36% to €2.9bn (£2bn).
Yesterday the company declined to confirm the appointment of UBS and Rothschild but well placed industry sources said those firms were working on proposals that would eventually be put to the consumer group's board.
"We announced a review last May at the annual general meeting and said we would make a report on this to the agm next year. We also said at the time we would use external help but I am not going to comment further," said a Unilever spokesman.
The legal structure of the company was among issues that would be looked at in the review, he said, but it would be "premature" to conclude that a single stock market listing would be the desired route.
Asked whether Shell was a natural model to follow given its moves to a single board, headquarters and listing, the Unilever official said: "Theirs is a very different company to ours. We will be doing whatever is right for us."
Rothschild worked for Shell on its restructuring, in tandem with Citigroup. It also has links with the Dutch-based investment bank ABN Amro, giving the London-based financier some insight into the thoughts of Dutch institutional investors.
Unilever said on Friday it would start a strategic review of its west European frozen food business, raising expectations of a sell-off that could fetch up to €2bn. As well as Birds Eye in Britain, businesses under the spotlight include Findus in Italy and Iglo across Germany, the Netherlands and other northern European countries. The review follows a number of attempts by Unilever to revive sales growth.
Unilever runs the largest branded frozen food business in Europe, but the division is essentially made up of three separate brands and could be broken up three ways. Britain, Italy and Germany account for about 75% of its sales.
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