Court Greenlights Unilever Preference Share Vote

05 May 2005

Anglo-Dutch global consumer goods giant Unilever on Wednesday won approval from a Netherlands court to go ahead with a vote at its annual meeting on the contentious topic of preference shares.

The meeting in Rotterdam next week will be asked to approve the abolition of Dutch-listed preference shares, with all stockholders entitled to vote on the issue.

An all-comers vote had been opposed in court by a major shareholder, the hedge fund subsidiary of Mellon Financial Corporation, which argued that preference shareholders should have a separate vote on the cancellation of their shares.

The vote will be retrospective as the conversion of the shares to ordinary stock has already been actioned by the company after receiving permission from a Dutch commercial court five months ago.

Unilever seemingly expects the vote to be a little more than rubber-stamping excercise. Said a spokesman: "The request by Mellon HBV was rejected by the judge and all shareholders will be able to vote."

But despite the court's verdict, controversy remains. Preference shareholders claim they had been led to believe by Unilever that their shares would be bought back for cash, rather than exchanged for ordinary shares as now appears to be the case.

The court has launched an inquiry into the matter and could compel Unilever to hand over the cash to investors if it rules the company's communication policy was defective.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff