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Reckitt Benckiser (RB) has denied accusations of tax avoidance in developing countries as charity organisation Oxfam publishes a report highlighting the household goods manufacturer as an example of a multinational not paying its “fair share”.

In the ‘Making Tax Vanish’ report, published this morning, Oxfam said the £10bn-turnover consumer goods giant funnelled intra-company transaction through the low-tax jurisdictions of the Netherlands, Dubai and Singapore so more profit accumulates in those three places rather than countries where it conducts its core business.

The move to create the three regional hubs reduced the Dettol, Vanish and Durex maker’s global tax bills by around £200m from 2014 to 2016, including up to £60m in developing markets, according to Oxfam.

RB “strongly refuted” the accusation of tax avoidance and claimed the re-structuring was motivated by a desire to be close to customers and consumers by combining geographies. However, the charity group said it believed the significant business reason for the move was to save tax.

Reckitt added its tax policy complied with all its legal obligations and was “the norm” for the majority of global businesses.

Oxfam estimated that RB avoided paying taxes of £66.2m in France, £71.3m in Australia, £22m in Belgium and £7.4m in New Zealand in between 2013 and 2015. The charity added it was unable to accurately assess tax losses in other countries due to a lack of transparency on what profits are made where.

It also suggested that evidence pointed to Reckitt taking advantage of specific tax deals agreed with the Luxembourg government, helping the company avoid £17m in tax between 2010 and 2015.

Oxfam said RB was not the only example of a multinational corporation “not paying its fair share” – and the charity added it did not consider the business to be the worst offender. It choose RB as an example to highlight how the poorest countries are missing out on money they could invest to alleviate poverty and put into healthcare, education and jobs.

Oxfam urged RB and other companies to voluntarily publish information about their tax practices in every country where they operate.

“Companies like RB have a vital role to play in reducing poverty,” Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring said. “But this role will only be fully realised if RB and other companies pay taxes in line with their economic activity in every country where they operate, not where they can negotiate a smaller bill. Oxfam is looking forward to further discussions with RB on this issue.

“Governments must work together to agree a new round of international tax reforms that will prevent global corporations from shifting profits and people in poor countries from being short-changed.”

A statement from RB said: “RB pays the right amount of tax in each country where we do business around the world. The taxes we pay are in accordance with where the value is created, taking into account internationally agreed transfer pricing principles.

‘As Oxfam recognises, RB’s tax policy is totally legal and the norm for the majority of global businesses. We comply with all our legal obligations and seek to do what is right by all the company’s stakeholders.”

It added that, relative to other multinational corporations headquartered in the UK, its effective tax rate of 23% (in 2016) compared favourably with its peer group companies.

“We strongly refute the assertion made by Oxfam that RB’s decision made in 2012 to locate its regional ‘business headquarters’ in the Netherlands, Dubai and Singapore was driven principally by tax avoidance,” the group said. “Rather this restructuring was motivated by our desire to ensure that our business was organised to be close to our customers and consumers by combining geographies of Europe and North America (located in Netherlands); Russia, Middle East and Africa (located in Dubai); and Asia Pacific (located in Singapore).

“We share Oxfam’s belief that it is important for governments, particularly the poorest nations, to have access to sufficient tax receipts to be able to invest in the provision of adequate public services and infrastructure.

“However, we similarly strongly refute any link between our tax structure and the assertion that we seek to avoid taxes in developing countries that could otherwise have been invested in public health and education. None of our business operations are in any way linked to tax avoidance in developing countries.

“Indeed, RB has had longstanding partnerships on the ground in developing countries to promote improvements in child and infant mortality, health and hygiene. This is core to the purpose of many of our brands like Dettol, Lysol, Harpic and Durex.”

RB also said it supported the call on governments to take the necessary steps to accelerate public country by country reporting and to create “a level playing field” for all businesses irrespective of where they are headquartered.

“We would encourage the UK government to play a leading role in this respect,” it said.

Morning update

Elsewhere on an unusually quier morning on the markets for a Thursday, The Grocer revealed last night that almost 200 jobs have been saved at food-to-go operator Tasties of Chester after former Adelie Foods CEO Gavin Cox put together a rescue deal with administrators. Read the full details here.

Outside the UK, shares in the new demerged Metro start trading at 9am this morning in Frankfurt, giving investor the chance, for the first time, to back the separate wholesale and food specialist business. At the same time, shares in consumer electronics focused Ceconomy will start trading independently.

“With the stock exchange listing of the new Metro we are entering the future,” CEO Olaf Koch said. “The new Metro is a clearly positioned wholesale and food specialist. Our chosen stock code ‘B4B’ emphasizes our focus as a partner for independent businesses. We have successfully executed the demerger of Metro Group into two independent, focused and stock listed companies within the framework of our ambitious time schedule. This is due in particular to the great commitment of our employees. We have achieved a lot – for the benefit of our customers, employees and shareholders.”

Shareholders in the German retailer overwhelmingly voted in February to back the plan to split the group’s wholesale and hypermarket food business from Media-Saturn by the middle of the year.

Property investor LondonMetric Property has acquired two Marks & Spencer stores in the Isle of Wight and Lancashire for £24.6m, reflecting a net yield of 5.45%. The two edge-of-town-centre properties are let to Marks & Spencer at a total rent of £1.4m a year, subject to annual rental uplifts of 2%. The existing lease runs for a further ten years. The acquisitions would complement LondonMetric’s existing convenience portfolio, which now includes eight M&S stores and four Aldi stores, the group said. The portfolio is valued at £85m.

LondonMetric CEO Andrew Jones said: “Consumer shopping patterns continue to evolve and we remain convinced that logistics and convenience retail are on-going beneficiaries of these changes as retailers look to invest further in their click and collect distribution infrastructure. We have very good relationships with M&S and this is a rare opportunity to acquire two strongly performing stores.”

Yesterday in the City

Tesco (TSCO) and Booker (BOK) slipped yesterday as the CMA announced it had completion concerns in 350 areas and would be launching a full-blown investigation into the£3.7bn merger. Shares in Tesco fell 0.2% to 170.7p and Booker slipped 0.7% to 188.2p.

Marks & Spencer continued to suffer as shares plunged another 2.1% to 316.2p after heavy falls on Tuesday as it revealed like-for-like food sales had gone into reverse.

Greencore (GNC) was also among the fallers, down 1.6% to 227.4p.

The FTSE 100 surged 1.2% (or 87 points) to 7,416.93 points – its biggest daily gain since April – as Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen said interest rates hikes would be gradual.

After climbing more than 4% in the morning trading, B&M European Value Retail (BME) settled back down in the afternoon. The discounter closed 1.6% higher at 340.6p after a strong first quarter.

SSP Group (SSPG) also gave up early big gains to finish 0.6% up at 486.8p on the back of strong trading in its third quarter.

Coca-Cola HBC (CCH), Compass Group (CPG) and Reckitt Benckiser (RB) all performed strongly yesterday, rising 2.3% to 2,251p, 2.3% to 1,594p and 2% to 7,748p respectively.