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At last Shell oil – but only for the squeaky wheels

Daily Telegraph: At last Shell oil – but only for the squeaky wheels

“…the treatment of the British Royal Dutch holders is one of Shell’s more disappointing episodes and an unwelcome throwback to its old reputation for corporate arrogance.”

Wednesday 21 Sept 2005

Finally some common sense is seeping out from the Shell lubyanka over the fate of British holders in Royal Dutch Petroleum. These were the unfortunate shareholders who were landed with a big tax bill after the oil and gas giant restructured.

Unfortunately, Shell’s tax-free solution comes too late for those unlucky souls who accepted the deal during the summer. Its loan note alternative only helps the noisy minority of Royal Dutch refuseniks who were rich and/or stubborn enough to hold out against the corporate might of Shell. The rest – mostly smaller investors who accepted under threat of a “Dutch squeeze-out” – get nothing.

Jeroen van der Veer, Shell’s estimable chief executive, has been rightly praised for bringing a long overdue dose of glasnost to Shell’s creaking Soviet infrastructure in the wake of its reserves fiasco. But the treatment of the British Royal Dutch holders is one of Shell’s more disappointing episodes and an unwelcome throwback to its old reputation for corporate arrogance.

Van the Man had every chance to do something for the Brits in the summer, but he was far too Lofty. Instead he claimed that there was nothing left in his “tool-box” to help them. Yesterday he belatedly found the missing spanner.

We rejoice at the sinner who repenteth, but without the enthusiastic efforts of the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers, amplified through these pages, it is hard to imagine that Van the Builder’s missing tool would have been found.

Furthermore, it is surprising that Shell – or its $115m army of City bankers and lawyers – couldn’t find a tax free solution until now. The unlucky ones who sold their shares to pay the tax bill have been left with the double whammy of lost capital and income. What a mess.

Now Shell says that there is nothing that can be done for these unfortunates because it can’t start to meddle in individual tax affairs. Mr Van der Veer and Shell should feel morally bound to help them, but don’t hold your breath.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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