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The Sun (UK): Lord Browne plays down BP rift: denied departure linked to clashes over a possible merger with SHELL

BP chief executive Lord Browne yesterday scotched talk of a boardroom row.

Presenting the oil giant’s annual results for the last time, Lord Browne denied his departure was linked to clashes over a possible merger with SHELL.

And he insisted it was unconnected with last month’s Baker report — which slammed BP’s safety record.

He said: “We’ve had a very lengthy and very good succession planning process.

“When it was clear my successor would be Tony Hayward, who is a great person, I decided that I would leave. In my experience, organisations don’t like uncertainty, they like to know who’s in charge.”

He said he was now working with Mr Hayward on an orderly handover. Lord Browne added: “We’ve worked together for years and years, he’s my friend — we’ve worked together for so long it’s impossible to tell.”

He was speaking as BP reported full year profits of £11.3billion for 2006 — up 15 per cent on 2005.

But profits for October, November and December were down 12 per cent on those months in 2005 due to lower production and higher costs.

Analysts were also concerned at news that BP’s oil and gas production will be lower than expected next year — while the company will invest £9.1billion in exploration next year, some £1.3billion more than expected.

But Lord Browne said: “We have a superb track record in reserves replacement.

“We know what we need to do and have put the right amount of capital behind that.”

He said production suffered partly because the whole industry was running at full pelt.

He added: “We’ve experienced delays in getting projects on stream. Rigs, equipment and so forth are in very short supply so, if anything goes wrong, you don’t have any back-up.”

BP shares sank 6.5p to 535.

Lord Browne said: “They are underpriced. I am certain we will do something about it. It’s up to us to perform.” and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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