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.


Huawei: Smartphone chips running out under US sanctions

Updated 08 August 2020

Huawei: Smartphone chips running out under US sanctions

  • Huawei is at the center of US-Chinese tension over technology and security
  • Washington cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology last year

BEIJING: Chinese tech giant Huawei is running out of processor chips to make smartphones due to US sanctions and will be forced to stop production of its own most advanced chips, a company executive says, in a sign of growing damage to Huawei’s business from American pressure.
Huawei Technologies, one of the biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment, is at the center of US-Chinese tension over technology and security. The feud has spread to include the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok and China-based messaging service WeChat.
Washington cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology including Google’s music and other smartphone services last year. Those penalties were tightened in May when the White House barred vendors worldwide from using US technology to produce components for Huawei.
Production of Kirin chips designed by Huawei’s own engineers will stop Sept. 15 because they are made by contractors that need US manufacturing technology, said Richard Yu, president of the company’s consumer unit. He said Huawei lacks the ability to make its own chips.
“This is a very big loss for us,” Yu said Friday at an industry conference, China Info 100, according to a video recording of his comments posted on multiple websites.
“Unfortunately, in the second round of US sanctions, our chip producers only accepted orders until May 15. Production will close on Sept. 15,” Yu said. “This year may be the last generation of Huawei Kirin high-end chips.”
More broadly, Huawei’s smartphone production has “no chips and no supply,” Yu said.
Yu said this year’s smartphone sales probably will be lower than 2019’s level of 240 million handsets but gave no details. The company didn’t immediately respond to questions Saturday.
Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, denies accusations it might facilitate Chinese spying. Chinese officials accuse Washington of using national security as an excuse to stop a competitor to US tech industries.
Huawei is a leader among emerging Chinese competitors in telecoms, electric cars, renewable energy and other fields in which the ruling Communist Party hopes China can become a global leader.
Huawei has 180,000 employees and one of the world’s biggest research and development budgets at more than $15 billion a year. But, like most global tech brands, it relies on contractors to manufacture its products.
Earlier, Huawei announced its global sales rose 13.1 percent over a year ago to $65 billion in the first half of 2020. Yu said that was due to strong sales of high-end products but gave no details.
Huawei became the world’s top-selling smartphone brand in the three months ending in June, passing rival Samsung for the first time due to strong demand in China, according to Canalys. Sales abroad fell 27 percent from a year earlier.
Washington also is lobbying European and other allies to exclude Huawei from planned next-generation networks as a security risk.
In other US-Chinese clashes, TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is under White House pressure to sell the video app. That is due to fears its access to personal information about millions of American users might be a security risk.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced a ban on unspecified transactions with TikTok and the Chinese owner of WeChat, a popular messaging service.