Unilever shares drop as position in the FTSE looks uncertain

Alys Key
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Unilever is moving out of its London HQ (Source: Getty)

Unilever has said it is unlikely to remain in the FTSE indexes after its planned move to a single headquarters in Rotterdam.

Under plans announced in March, Unilever will ditch its dual-structure system, abandoning London in favour of The Netherlands.

At a presentation today, chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly said the company was "extremely unlikely" to be included in the FTSE UK series.

“We’ve been engaging extensively with FTSE Russell over the last few weeks and months and from this it is clear that it is extremely unlikely that the ‘New NV’ shares after simplification will be included in the FTSE UK series," he said. "Consequently our weighting in the pan European indices will be increased.”

Shares in the company closed down 2.8 per cent in London.

City A.M. understands that the final decision on Unilever's inclusion in the FTSE is likely to come once the full outline of the proposed simplification is sent to shareholders in the third quarter. A vote on the changes will take place at a general meeting at the end of the third quarter.

FTSE Russell declined to comment.

Pitkethly also used his speech to say that Unilever would maintain a premium London listing and that he hoped "those investors who are impacted have sufficient flexibility in their portfolios to continue to hold Unilever".

But Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said UK tracker funds and benchmark huggers will sell out of the stock if it is ejected from the FTSE 100.

Meanwhile Anubhav Malhotra, analyst at Liberum, told City A.M. that shareholders "will be losing a share base that was probably more long-term oriented", but that many also recognise the benefits of the simplification.

Read more: Unilever boss likely to stay in top job for longer than expected

With the announcement in March, Unilever said another move to reorganise its business into three divisions - two headquartered in London and one in the Netherlands, reflected its long-term commitment "to both countries".

At the time, Unilever, which has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a member of the FTSE 100, said it will still be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York.

The aim is for the proposed shake-up to provide greater flexibility for the firm, allow it to be "more agile", and "help drive long-term performance".

Last month, the consumer goods giant faced a headache over executive pay, with a sizeable chunk of investors voicing opposition to directors' pay packets.

Over a third (35.8 per cent) of votes cast opposed the remuneration policy, which sets a target annual bonus of up to £2.16m for chief executive Paul Polman.

Read more: More than a third of Unilever shareholders oppose director pay

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