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Financial Times: Energy landscape redesigned

Energy landscape redesignedBy Carola Hoyos and Alison Maitland in London
Published: May 15 2006 03:00 | Last updated: May 15 2006 03:00

Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, has warned that the increasingly nationalistic position of oil-rich countries and their redrawing of contracts is a new reality that international energy companies have to accept.

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However, not all his competitors share his view.

Mr van der Veer, head of the world's third-largest listed energy group by market capitalisation, told the FT: “The higher the oil and gas price is, the more national thinking you get. This is a new reality. In the end, governments are always the boss.”

He said using lawsuits to fight the loss of control and profit share that comes when countries such as Venezuela change contract terms was “counterproductive . . . good luck!”.

“In Venezuela, we were one of the first to renegotiate. Under the circumstances we are quite satisfied we can work our future there. We have harmony with the government, which is very important. In Bolivia, I assume we will come to a solution.”

Other companies, such as ExxonMobil of the US, take a very different approach, often threatening international arbitration and legal action or abandoning fields.

Rex Tillerson, Exxon chief executive, says governments should avoid acting unilaterally to scrap existing contracts.

Asked about Venezuela's actions in a recent interview, he said: “We're not looking for a fight with anybody. And were not trying to be confrontational with anyone. Sanctity of contracts is important to us . . . but our view has always been 'if you want to change a contract, let's sit down and talk about it'.”

However, Exxon executives also warn that, if oil companies fail to take a stand against unlawful changes in contract rules, they risk sending themselves and the industry down a slippery slope with oil-rich countries demanding more and more concessions.

In an interview with Les Echos, the FT's French sister newspaper, Thierry Desmarest, chief executive of Total, said the French company would like to start gas production in Bolivia, but would not do so “on any conditions”. He also said Total was waiting for the situation “to clear up” in Venezuela. “Let's hope reason will triumph in both cases,” he said.

Bolivia has become the latest country to change the rules, taking full control of its gas fields from companies including Petrobras of Brazil, Repsol of Spain, and the UK's BG. Last week, President Evo Morales said the government would not pay compensation for the confiscated fields.

Antonio Brufau, chief executive of Repsol, warned: “We have the option of going to court.”

He added that Repsol's main goal was to protect its investments and the interests of its shareholders. “

Additional reporting by Thomas Catan

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1 Comment on “Financial Times: Energy landscape redesigned”

  1. #1 milagro andrade
    on Jul 27th, 2006 at 15:08

    Este es el articulo en donde el CEO( presidente) de Shell afirma que ellos están en una posicion clara en la que pueden trabajar en Venezuela

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