Clues suggest that merger talks between two oil giants, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, to create the world’s biggest corporate titan, eclipsing ExxonMobil are underway.
Yesterday two British newspapers, The Times and the Daily Mail, reported news of merger discussions between BP and Royal Dutch Shell to create a corporate titan – the world’s largest company.
Under the headline “It’s on. A £250bn-plus summertime oil merger to create the world’s largest company”, the Daily Mail said “Red hot rumours suggest that top corporate financiers, financial advisers and executives of BP and Royal Dutch Shell are currently involved in round the clock discussions centred on finalising terms for a ‘friendly’ merger which many industry analysts believe would make a great deal of sense”.
Excited speculation about a merger between BP and Shell has broken out several times right from the inception of the unified company Royal Dutch Shell Plc in 2005. We now know that there was substance to the speculation. It has been confirmed that Lord Browne was keen to launch a takeover bid for Shell and sought the backing of his board. It was also reported that discussions took place at a high level between the two oil giants. Shell’s previous reaction to press reports on the matter has been to issue a statement saying that they do not comment on speculation. This time there has been no such statement.
Another clue to the possibility that discussions are really underway is that action was taken by Shell lawyers on 22 June to remove a combined BP/Shell logo from what the Financial Times has recently described as an anti-Shell website www.royaldutchshellplc.com which also operates under the domain name of www.bpshellplc.com – a likely corporate name for the merged company.
Shell General Counsel Keith Ruddock has confirmed that Shell did send communications to relevant website hosting companies threatening action unless the logo was immediately removed. The merged BP/Shell logo in question, created by the website/domain name owner Alfred Donovan, a former consultant to Shell, had previously been displayed on his website regularly for long periods without any objection being raised. Suddenly, it has become a topical and evidently highly important issue.
Former Shell Executive Paddy Briggs summed up the situation in response to the latest speculation: “As a once employee of Shell-Mex and BP I would love to see Shell and BP merge – so long as there is then a rapid upstream/downstream demerger. Could it really happen? We shall see!”
By John Donovan