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Shell bows to investor demands

Financial Times: Shell bows to investor demands

By Sundeep Tucker in London

Posted 17 June 04

Royal Dutch/Shell has bowed to investor pressure and decided to release fresh details of its review into governance and structure in an attempt to avoid a damaging public row with shareholders at its forthcoming annual meetings.

The embattled Anglo-Dutch oil company had previously said it would issue an update of the review at its dual annual meetings on June 28.

But following intense public lobbying by investors, an announcement is now expected today or tomorrow following the monthly board meetings.

The move follows Wednesday’s letter in the Financial Times signed by two powerful shareholders, Calpers, the giant Californian pension fund, and Knight Vinke, a US-based asset manager.

In it they called on Shell to release more details of the review or expect hostile questioning from investors at the annual meetings.

The letter was viewed as evidence of the deteriorating relationship between the company and its investors, who are demanding to know which executives are conducting the review, what their terms of reference are and to whom they will report.

The oil company has announced four reserves downgrades since January and suffered several high-level management departures.

In April Shell promised to review its complex corporate structure but investors have grown increasingly frustrated at the review’s lack of transparency.

It is understood that the dual boards will discuss the shape of the disclosures and what level of extra detail is to be announced.

A Shell spokesman said: “Shell is sensitive to, and aware of, investor concerns.”

Shell’s move received a cautious welcome on Wednesday from the Association of British Insurers, the leading lobby group that has been co-ordinating UK investor responses to the Shell debacle.

Peter Montagnon, the ABI’s head of investment affairs, said: “We’ll have to look and see what we get. But the more clarity they can give, the more trust there will be in the process.”

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