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Shell holds meeting with UK investors

Financial Times: Shell holds meeting with UK investors

By Sundeep Tucker

Jun 12, 2004

Senior executives of Shell Transport & Trading have embarked on a City charm offensive ahead of the embattled oil company’s annual meeting later this month.

Jeroen van der Veer, president of the Shell Group, yesterday had his first face-to-face meetings with London investors since taking up the position.

Lord Oxburgh, acting chairman of Shell Transport, will meet a number of key City institutions next week.

The oil company is reeling after four reserves downgrades since January and management upheavals including the departure of group chairman Sir Philip Watts. It is facing numerous class action lawsuits and regulatory investigations in the US, UK and the Netherlands.

Investors in Shell Transport, the UK arm of the Dutch-British combine, want Shell to reform its governance structures and internal controls, which they believe led directly to the reserves fiasco.

UK investors want Shell to abolish its dual share structure and appoint an independent chairman and non-executives answerable to shareholders.

Shareholders in Royal Dutch Petroleum, the company’s larger Netherlands arm, have adopted a more cautious public stance but are understood to be awaiting proposals for change.

Investors from both sides of the company – including large Dutch pension funds such as ABP and PGGM – have joined forces to apply greater pressure on Shell management.

In annual meetings in the UK and the Netherlands on June 28, the company may announce a timetable for proposed changes.

Shell said yesterday: “We have an ongoing dialogue with investors and take their concerns seriously but we are unable to comment on individual meetings between staff and shareholders.” The London meetings follow publication of the company’s delayed 2003 annual report. They come two weeks after Mr van der Veer told a senior staff gathering in the US that Shell wants to shed its reputation for arrogance and bullying and re-examine its executive pay policy.

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