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16 August 2004

French oil group Total is refusing to comment on rumours that it is considering a bid for Shell.

A report referring to a Royal Dutch/Shell and Total tie-up said the two groups were “the subject of fevered speculation”, adding that Shell executives were anxious.

“We do not comment on rumours,” a Total spokeswoman said, echoing comments from Shell.

The Observer report quoted an oil analyst as saying that on paper it would fit but the main issue would be who would be in charge.

An industry source earlier in the month said Shell was planning to unite the boards of its Dutch and British holding companies.

He added that the group might consider a full merger of the two, or for one holding company to take over the other.

Royal Dutch currently owns 60% of the overall group, while Shell Transport & Trading has 40%.

Shell in January revealed it had disclosed a 20% downgrade to its proved oil and gas reserves.

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