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Shell under fire from US investors

The Times

By PA News

June 16, 2004

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell came under fresh attack today after two US-based investors hit out at a lack of transparency in the review of the company’s structure.

Knight Vinke Asset Management and Californian pension fund Calpers urged the company to be more open about a process that may lead to its twin boards being merged.

The investors said that a structure which has directors meeting separately in The Hague and London was partly to blame for the “debacle” over the recent restating of oil and gas reserves.

Shell has a complex structure with all its assets owned by two parent companies, which are listed on different stock exchanges.

Royal Dutch Petroleum, with its headquarters in The Hague, owns 60 per cent of the assets with the remainder controlled by London-based Shell Transport.

The pair said their views were shared by many other institutional shareholders and could lead to some tough questioning at the annual meeting of the Anglo-Dutch company on June 28.

Shell responded by saying it was “sensitive and aware” of their concerns and pledged to make an announcement “as soon as it is able”.

The review of governance and company structure was announced after Shell shocked investors in January with a 20 per cent downgrade in its accessible stocks.

Chairman Jeroen van der Veer has said the review will look at all options and that “nothing has been ruled in and nothing ruled out”.

But Eric Knight, of Knight Vinke, and Calpers director Ted White, said the company was in danger of losing credibility by not disclosing details of the process publicly.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity for the group to repair some of the confidence that has been lost by conducting this process in a manner that embraces openness and candour,” they said in a published letter.

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