Unilever Spends $1.2 Billion to Repurchase Rights to Shares

Unilever spent 715 million pounds ($1.2 billion) to acquire share rights left in family trusts by one of the company’s founders nearly a century ago, simplifying its stock structure.

The purchase from trusts of William Hesketh Lever will boost earnings per share at the Anglo-Dutch company by 2 percent a year, Unilever said today. The amount paid is equivalent to 1,009 pence per Unilever Plc ordinary share, 63 percent less than the closing price in London on May 16.

“It is good for all our shareholders,” Unilever Chief Financial Officer Jean Marc Huet said in a statement today. “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.”

Hesketh Lever founded Lever Brothers Ltd., one of the companies that would later become Unilever, in the U.K. in 1885. When he died in 1925, he left rights to a large number of Unilever shares in various trusts. These would have been converted at the end of 2038 into 70.9 million Unilever shares, or about 5.4 percent of the company’s share capital.

Unilever was created in 1930 when Lever Brothers merged with the Netherlands’ Margarine Unie. To avoid punitive taxes, two controlling companies were set up with identical boards and mutual sharing of brands and technology.

Unilever’s London-listed shares rose 1.1 percent to 2,734 pence at 12:21 p.m. The Dutch listed stock advanced 0.6 percent to 32.27 euros in Amsterdam.

The transaction will reduce the fully diluted share capital by 2.4 percent, the London- and Rotterdam-based company said.

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