Potential Impacts of Unilever’s Move to Rotterdam
Published September 30, 2018
In years past, it would be nearly unheard of to see a company move its corporate headquarters. Towns big and small rose up around these vital buildings of commerce and companies invested heavily in their surrounding area to maintain their welcome in the destinations they chose to inhabit.
But within the last five years, we have seen a large number of huge enterprises not only contemplate moving their headquarters but actually follow through and relocate to new cities or even new countries. Apple has moved to Cupertino, California in their new iconic “spaceship building,” Amazon is vetting it’s 10 headquarters finalists, and Unilever has announced their move to Rotterdam.
Unilever is a prime example of a brand who shocked the world by announcing their plans to consolidate their corporate headquarters. All is not lost for London though; Unilever intends to base its beauty, personal-case, and home-care divisions in London even after the rest of the divisions move to Rotterdam.
As a leader in the secondary packaging automation and greater consumer packaged goods industries, INSITE has been following the unfolding story of Unilever’s move closely. Having provided many such corporations with the case erectors and case sealers they need to streamline their production, the potential of a new plant opening for one of the largest consumer goods manufacturer is of vast interest to us.
What Prompted Unilever’s Consolidation
Until 2018, Unilever was a dual-listed company as Unilever PLC and Unilever N.V., based in London, UK, and Rotterdam, Netherlands respectively. Unilever PLC maintains a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange as is a part of the FTSE 100 Index. Unilever N.V is likewise listed on the Euronext Amsterdam and is a part of the AEX index. And of course, Unilever is recognized as a lux on the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index and as such identified as a supersector leader in the Eurozone.
Back in 2017, Unilever was able to fend off the single largest corporate bid ever made, but in doing so was forced to present investors with a comprehensive plan that would boost profits and reinvigorate the decades-old brand. As Britain’s third largest company, Unilever was understandably somewhat off-put by their perceived lack of support from the British government during this time. Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman was quoted as saying in the weeks following off the failed takeover that Britain should “Do more to protect national champions.”
British unions have noted that Dutch companies appear to have stronger pull when it comes to fighting off unwanted takeovers, such as when Akzo Nobel was able to fend off a 26.3 billion euro bid from PGG Industries.
Being a company that relies heavily on sales through brick and mortar stores, a practice which is struggling to say the least in our modern digital-driven age, there’s no doubt that the prospect of consolidating in a location that would better support their long-term goals would be attractive.
And while Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers maintains that Brexit was not a motivating factor in their decision, citing that “The board takes a 30 to 50-year decision. We think both countries are highly attractive investment climates and we will continue to invest in both countries as a result of this,” one can’t help but speculate as to the correlation between the uncertainties posed by Brexit and Unilever’s sudden move out of London.
It should be noted that Unilever plans to maintain their location in London, but it will no longer be recognized as a headquarters and will now house only three of the company’s divisions. In theory, there should be no job loss due to this move from London, but residents of Rotterdam can expect to see potential employment opportunities in the coming months.
Why so Many Corporate Headquarters are Moving
Apple, Amazon, General Electric, McDonald’s, ADM; it seems like everyone is relocating their corporate headquarters of late. The question is why? According to some experts; one of the potential motivators behind this trend could be human resource needs.
In a world that is becoming more digitally-driven with every passing day, companies are needing to relocate to more attractive destinations to attract the talent they need to modernize their business. Take Young America for example. The direct-marketing firm called the town of Norwood Young America (previously just Young America) home and adopted its name as it’s own. For 42 years, the agency called Young America home and contributed mightily to the town’s development and prosperity. But in 2015, they shocked the world by announcing plans to not only move to downtown Minneapolis but also become known simply as YA.
The reason behind this move? Talent. The traditional marketing agency came to a point where they needed to attract high-level developers and designers in order to stay relevant in their industry, and they weren’t going to find that talent 40 miles outside of the city.
Many other corporations are facing the same challenges. They’re either running out of space in their current location, or they need to relocate to a destination that will draw the next generation of talent that they need to keep their business alive.
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