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More managers join fight against Unilever plans

More managers join fight against Unilever plans

Royal London Asset Management has become the latest to announce it will vote against Unilever’s plans to move its corporate headquarters to Holland and exit the FTSE 100.

The owners of Unilever’s UK shares will vote on 25 October on whether to permit Unilever to exit the UK market.

Such a move would mean Unilever shares would no longer be listed in the FTSE 100, meaning many fund managers would have to sell the shares.

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To be allowed to move, 75 per cent of UK shares most support the move, as well as 50 per cent of individual shareholders.

David Cummings, head of equities at Aviva Investors and Nick Train, fund manager at Lindsell Train, were among the first market participants to state they would be voting against the plan.

Schroders and Legal and General then announced they would vote against it.

Now Royal London and a pair of investment trust managers at Janus Henderson have confirmed they will not support the plan.

Mike Fox, head of sustainable investments at Royal London Asset Management, said: "Many UK Unilever shareholders voting for the upcoming resolution are effectively voting for forced divestment of their holding.

"Unilever might be able to convince European shareholders that the move makes sense for the company and for them as investors in the long term, but it’s hard for a UK investor to see an incentive to vote in favour.

"We think that Unilever is a high quality company, both in its own right and as a key constituent of a number of UK indices and have therefore decided to vote against the upcoming resolution."

He added: "Should the motion succeed, we would be forced to sell our holdings in Unilever plc across a number of our funds, something we do not believe would be in the interests of our clients."

Job Curtis, manager of the £1.4bn City of London investment trust said: "I think it preferable for Unilever to remain in the UK FTSE indices and subject to the UK’s more open system for corporate control."

The Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association (PIMFA) this week warned private investors who own the shares via a nominee account held by a wealth manager or via a platform such as Hargreaves Lansdown, may not be able to vote as individuals in one part of the vote.

There are two elements to the vote, 75 per cent of shares must vote in favour of the move, and they do not need a share certificate to do this, as the vote is online.

But the motion also requires 50 per cent of shareholders to vote for it. In that instance, clients of a platform will not be able to cast an individual vote without obtaining a share certificate and removing the investment from a tax wrapper. 

Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said: "The resistance against Unilever’s decision to move its headquarters to the Netherlands is gaining ground as another institutional investor joins the ranks of the dissenters.