A who’s who of City heavyweights objected to the move, including Aviva Investors, Columbia Threadneedle, Legal & General Investment Management and Schroders.
The plan would have resulted in Unilever being ejected from the FTSE 100, forcing passive investors that track the index to sell their holdings.
As well as a shareholder revolt, the ill-fated move stirred political tensions. The Dutch government’s announcement that it would scrap a 15pc withholding tax on dividends was seen by political opponents as a sweetheart deal to ensure Unilever chose Rotterdam over London.
Britons feared jobs would be moved to the continent after Brexit, which Unilever denied.
This time Unilever’s aim is essentially the same as before, but in reverse. The Dutch and UK companies will unify to form a single British business listed in London with secondary listings in Amsterdam and New York.
It expects to retain its place on both the FTSE 100 index and its Dutch equivalent, which may placate passive investment funds.
The shake-up needs the backing of 50pc of Dutch shareholders and 75pc of UK investors.
Unilever’s bosses argue that the complexity of its current setup makes it difficult to do demergers and acquisitions just when they need to be nimble in responding to a pandemic and an impending recession.
“Such flexibility is even more important as we anticipate the increasingly dynamic business environment that the Covid-19 pandemic will create,” it says, signalling a possible blizzard of transactions in the coming months.
There is now renewed speculation about Unilever splitting its food business from its beauty and personal care divisions. The firm said on Thursday that a separate food division would be incorporated and listed in the Netherlands.