Scramble to keep Unilever in London

Scramble to keep Unilever in London

The giant consumer group, whose products range from Dove soap to Marmite, will decide within the next three weeks if its new base will be in Rotterdam or London.

Unilever is reportedly set to name the Netherlands as the location of its sole global headquarters amid growing pressure over the UK's withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

But one United Kingdom official told the Financial Times that it was not looking good: "It wouldn't be a great surprise if it (a move to Holland) happened".

If Unilever choses Rotterdam for its headquarters, it will likely opt as well for a fully Dutch legal structure which will ease the company when it makes future takeovers, the FD said.

Having a single base in only one legal and tax jurisdiction will result in a single stock market quote, making it much easier to issue new shares or carry out share-based acquisitions.

Unilever's thinking was further tightened past year when United States foods collossus Kraft Heinz made a hostile bid for Unilever which was rebuffed. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who used to work for Unilever, has made several rulings which favour global investors into Dutch companies.

It exports about a third of the products it makes in the United Kingdom - valued at about €1bn (£875m) - and talks with the government are also thought to centre on potential trade borders and tariffs in the wake of Brexit.

Paul Polman, Unilever's chief executive, told the FT previous year that "political turbulence" was affecting any decision on where to base the company, adding: "The emotions of the moment are really the issue".

It is now thought that a decision would likely be taken during the second week of March, at its next scheduled board meeting, although no decision has yet been taken. It is thought that the company might be partly motivated by Brexit, with little more than a year remaining for the United Kingdom to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal from the EU.