Unilever was founded in 1930 following a business merger between Naamlooze Vennootschap Margarine Unie of the Netherlands and Lever Brothers Limited of the UK. To avoid punitive taxation levies and the disruption to the business that would result from dividing integrated national companies into their component parts, both companies pooled their interests through a business merger as opposed to a legal merger.
Two controlling companies were set up, one English (Unilever Ltd - now Unilever PLC) and the other Dutch (Naamlooze Vennootschap Margarine Unie – now Unilever NV). To allow both companies to operate as a single legal entity notwithstanding their independent legal structures, a series of agreements was put in place: mutual sharing of brands and technology; equalisation of dividend; mutual guarantee of borrowings; identical Boards of Directors and equal treatment for shareholders in the event of dissolution.
Overview of structure
Unilever NV and PLC have separate legal identities but operate as a single entity. Each Unilever NV ordinary share of € 0.16 represents the same underlying economic interest in the Unilever Group as each Unilever PLC ordinary share of 3 1/9 pence (safe for exchange rate fluctuations).