Brexit: NI protocol issue could negatively affect Irish economy

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Royal Dutch Shell said on Monday it would scrap its dual share structure and move its head office to Brexit Britain from the Netherlands, pushed away by Dutch taxes and facing climate pressure in court as the energy giant shifts from oil and gas.

The company, which long faced questions from investors about its dual structure and had recently been hit by a Dutch court order over its climate targets, aims to drop “Royal Dutch” from its name – part of its identity since 1907 – to become Shell Plc.

The firm has been in a long-running tussle with the Dutch authorities over the country’s 15 percent dividend withholding tax on some of its shares, making them less attractive for international investors.

Shell introduced the two-class share structure in 2005 after a previous corporate overhaul.

The new single structure with all shares under British law means none of its shares would be under this tax. It would also allow Shell to strike swifter sales or acquisition deals.

The Dutch government said on Monday it was “unpleasantly surprised” by Shell’s plans to move to London from The Hague.

In a political long-shot, Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Stef Blok contacted the heads of political parties in parliament on Monday to gauge support for scrapping the dividend tax, broadcaster RTL reported.

The government was forced to withdraw the same plan in 2018 following widespread opposition to the move, which was seen by the public as a gift to foreign shareholders.

Reacting to the Dutch government’s attempt to convince Shell to stay in the Netherlands, Italian MEP Marco Zanni delivered a strong attack on Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The Lega politician said: “Royal Dutch Shell says goodbye to the Netherlands and moves its tax office to London in a large operation that simplifies the corporate structure.

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“So Brexit is not the failure they want us to believe. The Dutch government’s reaction to the announcement seems desperate.

“Rutte, who never missed an opportunity to give lessons to Italy, is trying in every way a parliamentary majority to eliminate the 15 percent tax on dividends and persuade Shell to step back before the assembly on December 10.

“A bitter fate for those who have made tax dumping their fortune: the Netherlands attract more than 100 billion in profits from abroad every year – 5 billion from Italy alone – for the low taxation promised by the Dutch government.

“It is also curious that those who fill their mouths with the green revolution and the energy transition then end up kneeling to the demands of the fourth-largest oil group in the world.”

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Shell’s decision will be seen as a vote of confidence in London after Britain’s exit from the European Union triggered a shift in billions of euros in daily share trading from the UK capital to Amsterdam.

Shell’s shares, which will still be traded in Amsterdam and New York under the plan, climbed more than two percent in London on Monday morning after the news.

“The current complex share structure is subject to constraints and may not be sustainable in the long term,” Shell said, as it announced its plan to change the structure.

The dual structure means Shell now has primary listings in both London and Amsterdam, as well as two overarching legal headquarters despite operating as one economic group.

Such set-ups are expensive and complex, requiring the replication of board-level functions in two jurisdictions as well as being incorporated under two different legal regimes.

The change requires at least 75 percent of votes by shareholders at a general meeting to be held on Dec. 10, the company said.

“Among other benefits, the proposed changes will increase Shell’s ability to buy back shares,” Jefferies said in a research note.

Shell has said it would return $7billion from selling US assets to ConocoPhillips in addition to an ongoing share buyback programme.

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