Unilever moves headquarters to Rotterdam after 100 years in London

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Unilever will maintain a listing of its shares on the London Stock Exchange but is likely to slip out of the FTSE 100 unless a special exemption can be made.

The firm will now operate under three divisions - "Beauty & Personal Care", "Home Care" and "Foods & Refreshment".

The company that produces such diverse things as Marmite, Persil, Cornetto ice cream and Dove soap has chose to make Rotterdam the new home for its legal headquarters.

Unilever said the choice to end 88 years of operating with two parent companies was not linked to Brexit or protectionism, but would simplify its structure, improve its corporate governance and help enable takeover deals.

Chairman Marjin Dekkers, said: 'Unilever's Board is fully committed to delivering long-term performance and sustainable value for shareholders.

The move would represent an embarrassing blow to Theresa May's government as it struggles to present post-Brexit Britain as an ideal home for multinationals.

Unilever's decision comes after a swathe of big-hitting financial institutions, including British bank HSBC, Swiss peer UBS and USA giants JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, have already confirmed plans to move some London activities to Paris and elsewhere.

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It comes after rival Kraft Heinz made an ultimately unsuccessful $143 billion hostile takeover bid early previous year, which prompted Unilever to launch a far-reaching review of its business.

Its announcement also comes amid speculation over the timing of chief executive Paul Polman's retirement, with reports last autumn suggesting a search for his successor had already begun.

It said that the two divisions would have autonomy on issues such as mergers and acquisitions, and would have one billion pounds (€1.1 billion, $1.39 billion) to spend, suggesting that this would favor British universities and advertising companies.

Unilever made a point of saying that staff levels in both countries would be unaffected by the change. It also said that Unilever's employment of 7,300 people in the United Kingdom and 3,100 people in the Netherlands will be unaffected by the changes. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is a Unilever veteran himself.

The Netherlands has more favorable takeover protection rules, which can be considered as a main reason for the decision to choose for Rotterdam as sole headquarters.

As consumers have shied away from traditional brands in favor of products from smaller companies with more natural and organic ingredients, Unilever has tried to keep pace by buying companies like Schmidt's Naturals, Sundial Brands and Dollar Shave Club in recent years.

In an update to shareholders, Unilever confirmed it would be evolving its corporate structure.