Shell boss weighs up moving headquarters to Britain

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden’s hint about a possible switch of headquarters comes as the oil giant looks to simplify its dual structure. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 July 2020

Shell boss weighs up moving headquarters to Britain

  • Shell has consistently lobbied against the dividend tax

AMSTERDAM: Royal Dutch Shell is not ruling out moving its headquarters from the Netherlands to Britain, the oil company’s CEO Ben van Beurden said in a Dutch newspaper interview published on Saturday.

Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever said last month it plans to ditch its dual Anglo-Dutch legal structure and create a single entity in Britain.

Van Beurden did not explicitly say Shell wants to move its headquarters, Het Financieele Dagblad said.

“You always need to keep thinking,” Shell’s Van Beurden told the newspaper. “Nothing is permanent and, of course, we will look at the business climate. But moving your headquarters is not a trivial measure. You cannot think too lightly about that.”

A Shell spokesman confirmed the CEO’s comments and said the company was looking at ways to simplify its dual structure, as it had been doing for many years.

Shell has a complex Anglo-Dutch holding structure with a tax residency and headquarters in the Netherlands and a registered office in Britain.

Unilever’s decision to move followed the scrapping in 2018 of a plan by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to do away with a 15 percent dividend withholding tax.

Shell’s corporate structure features the parent company headquarters in The Hague but two share classes and other arrangements to prevent the Dutch government from levying withholding tax on dividends paid to shareholders of its former British arm.

The arrangement has come under renewed scrutiny after the Dutch government tried to scrap the dividend tax as an incentive to convince Unilever to unify its dual structure in Rotterdam.

Rutte abandoned the plan after a popular outcry over the tax cut, which was seen as a gift to rich foreigners.

Shell has consistently lobbied against the dividend tax, which it says makes financing dividends, share buy-backs and acquisitions more difficult.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.