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Daily Telegraph: Investors seek clarity on BP’s US troubles

Lord Brwone of BP

(BP CEO Lord Browne)

By Christopher Hope, Industry Editor
(Filed: 16/09/2006)

Major investors in BP want to meet the oil and gas giant’s chairman Peter Sutherland in the next few weeks to discuss its difficulties in America. The Daily Telegraph has learned that the concerns about BP were raised at a meeting of the investors’ committee of the Association of British Insurers on Monday.

It is understood that investors including Royal London and Insight Investment Management supported a move for the ABI to meet the BP chairman in the next few weeks. Two other shareholders – Morley Fund Management and Foreign & Colonial Asset Management – are understood to be seeking individual meetings with BP.

Their concern follows a 9pc fall in BP’s shares since the beginning of August after a series of problems in the US, including oil leaks at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. For the first time in months, BP’s market capitalisation is less than its arch rival Royal Dutch Shell. None of the fund managers would comment.

However, one investor said: “A number of people are requesting meetings to find out what is happening and what BP is doing about it. They have been very damaging to BP’s reputation.”

Another leading shareholder added: “The ABI are going to request a meeting with the chairman to discuss issues. It was supported around the table.”

A spokesman for the ABI said: “The investors’ committee met on Monday but we cannot say what was discussed. We are aware of the fact that some investors have issues but we are not involved at the moment.”

It also emerged that BP chief executive Lord Browne admitted at a briefing in UBS’s offices in the City on Thursday that oil companies eased up on capital expenditure five years ago. At the meeting, Lord Browne was asked if the problems were caused by low investment.

According to a source, he replied: “In the early 2000s there was a trend across the industry to ‘make do’ due to the low oil price and margins.”

Their US difficulties include outstanding legal actions over last year’s blast at BP’s Texas City oil refinery, which resulted in a$21.3m (£11.3m) fine for safety violations and three other US regulatory investigations.

BP has said that it “routinely assists regulators and other authorities in their requests to understand the facts related to our businesses. We do not comment on the specifics of these requests or the agencies that make them.”

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