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The Guardian: Shell advert seeks ‘our man in Iraq’

The Guardian: Shell advert seeks ‘our man in Iraq’

Platform said Mr Stroebl’s “secretive” appointment contradicted statements to shareholders at the June annual meeting that Shell had no activity or plans in Iraq.

David Gow and Carolynne Wheeler in Moscow

Wednesday August 11, 2004

Oil majors, including Shell and BP, are moving closer to establishing a long-term presence in Iraq, source of the world’s second-largest oil reserves, it emerged yesterday.

Shell, which has been forced to downgrade its proven oil and gas reserves by almost a quarter this year, has appointed a Dubai-based exploration and production executive to act as its “country chairman” for Iraq.

It has consulted an executive search firm to help find an Iraqi to act as “external affairs support” for Wolfgang Stroebl, the senior manager, described as “projects director”, spearheading its return to Iraq some 30 years after Saddam Hussein nationalised the industry.

Both Shell and BP also said they were evaluating the prospect of conducting research into two of Iraq’s biggest oilfields – Kirkuk in the north of the country and Rumaila, close to the Kuwaiti border.

As Iraqi officials said output from the country’s southern fields was resuming, helping to ease global oil prices, the government put out tenders for the two fields. The process closes on Sunday.

BP, whose chief executive, Lord Browne, has been hostile towards investment in Iraq because of the security situation, said it was considering a bid. Shell said it was evaluating both opportunities.

Both groups indicated that this technical work, using existing data, would not require a physical presence in Iraq and Shell insisted that it had no staff working in the country.

But Platform, a research group specialising in the environmental and social impacts of the oil industry and a long-standing critic of Shell, said this was disingenuous, given its appointment of Mr Stroebl.

Greg Muttitt, who discovered the advertisement seeking Mr Stroebl’s assistant, said the German-born executive had been working in and around Iraq since at least the late 1990s as a negotiator with the authorities.

The advertisement, placed by Glenn Irvine International, says the successful candidate will help bring “suitable opportunities to fruition on behalf of the company” and draw up a “reputation management plan”. They will ideally have “strong family connections and an insight into the network of families of significance within Iraq”.

Platform said Mr Stroebl’s “secretive” appointment contradicted statements to shareholders at the June annual meeting that Shell had no activity or plans in Iraq.

The group, which refused to comment publicly on his role, insisted he was operating from outside the country and the Iraqi government would determine the pace of developments.

It said: “We are interested in establishing a material and enduring presence in Iraq. We have no intention of operating there unless stability and security are ensured not only for the communities in which we would operate but for the sake of Shell’s staff.”

Shares in the troubled Russian oil company Yukos plunged yesterday after bailiffs seized shares in the company’s core operating unit, Yuganskneftega, for the second time, writes Carolynne Wheeler in Moscow .

Lawyers for Yukos said yesterday that the oil company may contest the move after justice ministry officials, collecting a $3.4bn tax debt, announced they would again seize shares despite a court decision on Friday that an earlier seizure was illegal.

Yukos shares ended the day down nearly 14%. Trade on the Moscow exchange was suspended for more than an hour in the morning after shares fell more than 15%.

Yesterday was the day when Yukos had warned it would have to stop shipping oil by rail as its tariffs were paid only until then. But the company yesterday confirmed that its oil shipments would continue throughout the month. Analysts have speculated that Yukos’s subsidiary operations are footing the bill.

The Moscow arbitration court yesterday adjourned until next week hearings of a plea by Yukos to stop bailiffs from enforcing collection of its $3.4bn tax bill.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1280587,00.html

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