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Where to hold ’em

Financial Times: Where to hold ’em

By Clay Harris

Jun 16, 2004

Think of it as a very big wedding. If you delayed the big day by two months, at short notice, you wouldn’t be surprised if the reception venue was already booked for the new date.

So there’s nothing particularly surprising about Shell Transport and Trading’s decision to hire ExCel, the conference centre in London’s docklands, for its rescheduled annual meeting on June 28.

Neither the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, Shell’s usual venue, nor any other adequate hall closer to central London was available. In spite of ExCel’s much larger capacity, the AGM will not take up more room than usual.

Shell is not the only company forced to seek a new site. Marks and Spencer has alerted shareholders that its 2005 and 2006 AGMs will be held in Birmingham’s International Convention Centre because the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank – the best bank – is being refurbished.

Such involuntary relocations give the new venues an opportunity to tempt companies into making a permanent move.

Shell, though, has already pencilled in a return to its old haunts for 2005, which it hopes will be a more normal year. A lot may depend on how the “wedding guests” behave this time. That, in turn, will be decided by the corporate governance fare served by Shell’s directors.

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