LONDON May 19 Consumer goods group Unilever said on Monday it had paid 715 million pounds ($1.2 billion) for the rights left in family trusts by co-founder William Hesketh Lever in a move to simplify the Anglo-Dutch group's share structure.
The rights are convertible in 2038 to 70.9 million shares of Unilever Plc, or about 2.4 percent of the combined total of London-listed Unilever Plc and Amsterdam-listed Unilever NV.
The reduction in share count will boost full-year earnings per share by 2 percent, said the company, whose products range from Dove soap to Lipton tea.
In a statement, Unilever Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Huet said the move was good for shareholders.
"It is another step in the simplification of Unilever's capital structure, making Unilever easier to understand, and eliminating ahead of time the burden of a significant dilution of shareholders' interests," Huet said.
In the 1880s, William Hesketh Lever and his brother founded the English soap company that became Unilever Plc. When he died in 1925, he left a large number of Plc shares in various trusts.
The price Unilever paid the trusts is equivalent to 10.09 pounds per share and represents a discount of 63 percent to the closing share price on May 16, the company said.
Shares of Unilever Plc were up 1.2 percent 27.37 pounds at 1205 GMT in London.
($1 = 0.5942 British Pounds) (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Mark Potter)