Last week I wrote about the impact a potential change to capital gains tax in the US had on a Elon Musk's public Twitter vote on whether he should sell 10% of his stake in Tesla (the majority being in favour). The conclusion being that sometimes tax policy can have some unintended consequences.
This week we Shell have surprised the Dutch government by confirming they are not only deleting two words in their name ("Royal" and "Dutch") but will also move to the UK in their entirety, removing the complex UK/Dutch dual listing they currently have.
Why? Well tax is a part of it. For a long time withholding tax of 15% has been levied on the Dutch-listed shares, but a change in policy would have meant the UK-listed shares would also be subject to this tax.
There are other pressures for Shell, activist investors, environmental challenges, falling out of favour with fund managers looking for greener credentials. However the UK government are probably over the moon at the result, at a point where post-Brexit news flow has generally had a certain negativity to it.
Another lesson for governments on how to balance public perception of tax take from large corporations versus the power those corporations have to reduce that tax take to zero by moving to another jurisdiction!
They're only two little words - but they are symbolic of a huge shift at one of the world's most important companies. If its management gets its way, following a shareholder vote, Royal Dutch Shell will become plain Shell. The change of name is part of a plan under which the company will shed its complicated dual share arrangement and relocate its tax residence from the Netherlands to the UK.