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Shell pumps in £25bn to restore reputation

Daily Express: Shell pumps in £25bn to restore reputation

By Andrew Johnson

Posted 24 Sept 04

OIL GIANT Shell is to step up investment by 20 per cent to $45billion (£25billion) for the next three years in a major shake-up designed to restore the group’s battered reputation.

More than $34billion has been earmarked for the group’s exploration and production arm, the division at the centre of the scandal which saw nearly 4.5 billion barrels wiped off the Anglo-Dutch oil giant’s reserves.

The focus is on bringing oil and gas fields on line and turning potential into production. However, $4.5billion will be spent searching for oil resources, an area in which Shell has under-invested until recently.

Executive chairman Jeroen van der Veer said yesterday the group hoped to finance the programme with $12billion from disposals and extra cash generated by the present high oil price.

Shell will also merge its oil products and chemicals arms to help make cost savings.

Investors were under-whelmed. The shares fell 14%p to 418p as analysts complained about a lack of information on share buybacks and fretted over the increased investment, which could mean less money for shareholders.

Van der Veer said the company’s break-even price for a barrel of oil had increased from $20 to $25, which he felt acceptable given historically high oil prices.

Significant growth in output is not expected to kick until 2009, with next year seen as a “low point”.

The reserves fiasco led to a board shake-up, with van der Veer’s predecessor, Sir Philip Watts, and exploration boss Walter van de Vijver losing their jobs. “I wish we had not had to go through the past six months — crisis is not the best way to operate,” van der Veer said. “However, we are where we are and we will use this as an opportunity to show what we can do.”

Much depends on the new production chief Malcolm Brinded. He said the firm had cut the number of countries where it has a presence from 40 to 25.

Short-term production will be driven by oil fields in West Africa, the Middle East and North Sea, later shifting to Sakhalin, off the Russian East coast, central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

He said Shell had possible reserves in oil and gas of up to 60billion barrels but admitted some of the short-term replacement of actual reserves would come from rebooking reserves wiped off by the scandal.

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