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The Observer: Exploration chief under fire in new-look Shell

The Observer: Exploration chief under fire in new-look Shell

Sunday June 26, 2005

Oliver Morgan

Malcom Brinded, head of Shell’s exploration and production division, will come under growing pressure from investors as the dual-listed company prepares for an historic merger of its UK and Dutch arms.

Investors meeting in London and The Hague this week will point to Shell’s lacklustre performance in securing major new production, including the failure to secure the rights to develop oilfields in Oman and Abu Dhabi, and the absence of a clear plan to replace reserves that were downgraded last year.

They do not want Shell to use its new unitary structure as a platform to make acquisitions in a bid to make up for the company’s weak reserves position and lack of growth in production between now and 2008-09. In 2002 the company bought Enterprise Oil for £4.3bn and was widely criticised for over-paying.

Instead, investors want the company to focus on gaining more major production assets and asset swaps – although these will also come at premium prices.

One leading investor said: ‘One area where people are looking closely and thinking about change is that they are getting fed up with Brinded.’ His concerns were echoed by some analysts. One said: ‘Thanks to problems such as Oman, the feeling is they are not doing a good job [in replacing reserves].’

The Observer has also seen an advance copy of Friends of the Earth’s ‘other’ annual report on Shell, which will be published this week to coincide with the AGM. The report contains detailed allegations about Shell’s environmental conduct in a host of countries, including the US, Nigeria, South Africa, Ireland and Russia, and accuses the oil giant of ‘unconscionable disregard for human lives and the environment’.

Yesterday a Shell spokeswoman strongly denied this claim. She said the company had not yet seen the Friends of the Earth report, but added: ‘Friends of the Earth have made many misleading allegations about us in the past.’

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,1514534,00.html

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