Unilever buys trust's rights in attempt to simplify group structure

Monday 19 May 2014 14.20
Unilever's move will boost full-year earnings per share by 2%, according to the group
Unilever's move will boost full-year earnings per share by 2%, according to the group

Consumer goods group Unilever said it had paid £715m for the rights left in family trusts by co-founder William Hesketh Lever in a move to simplify the Anglo-Dutch group's share structure.

The rights are convertible in 2038 to 70.9 million shares of Unilever Plc, or about 2.4% of the combined total of London-listed Unilever Plc and Amsterdam-listed Unilever NV.

The reduction in share count will boost full-year earnings per share by 2%, said the company, whose products range from Dove soap to Lipton tea.

In a statement, Unilever's chief financial officer Jean-Marc Huet said the move was good for shareholders.

"It is another step in the simplification of Unilever's capital structure, making Unilever easier to understand, and eliminating ahead of time the burden of a significant dilution of shareholders' interests," Huet said.

In the 1880s, William Hesketh Lever and his brother founded the English soap company that became Unilever. When he died in 1925, he left a large number of Plc shares in various trusts.

The price Unilever paid the trusts is equivalent to £10.09 per share and represents a discount of 63% to the closing share price on 16 May, the company said.