Unilever CEO to ask UK's May for extended Brexit transition

Unilever CEO to ask UK's May for extended Brexit transition

LONDON (Reuters) - Unilever <ULVR.L> Chief Executive Paul Polman on Thursday will ask British Prime Minister Theresa May to give businesses more time to adapt to Brexit.

"We will be talking about the possibility of a longer transition period," Polman told reporters ahead of a planned visit to 10 Downing Street, May's official residence. He said that a lengthy transition for Britain's exit from the European Union was "becoming more realistic now".

Polman, a Dutch national, said talks will also cover how the private sector can influence the process so that complex issues - such as border taxes, intellectual property, regulations or data protection - "can proceed as smoothly as possible without doing further damage than what we have to deal with already".

"You can imagine from where I'm sitting, as a European but having my heart in the UK as well, that I have some concrete suggestions of what can be done there," Polman said on a call with reporters following release of the consumer goods company's second-quarter results.

"There is no doubt that the quicker we can get some of the initial issues out of the way - like financial arrangements, citizens' rights, the issue of Ireland - the quicker we can focus on the trade side and the trade relations side," he said.

Unilever, whose products range from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry's ice cream, currently has a dual structure, with headquarters, boards of directors and stock listings in both Britain and the Netherlands. This is under review in the wake of a rebuffed $143 billion takeover bid from Kraft Heinz <KHC.O>, and the company expects to say by the end of the year whether it will combine into one.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Ben Hirschler and Jane Merriman)