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Daily Telegraph: Shell not ready to retire van der Veer: Could it be that he fancies one last deal? That much-speculated merger with BP perhaps?

By Russell Hotten
Last Updated: 12:17am BST 29/03/2007

Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s biggest oil company, has announced that Jeroen van der Veer will remain as chief executive beyond the normal retirement date, a move welcomed by investors but which still sparked speculation about the company’s succession plans.

Mr van der Veer, 60 in October, had been due to retire on 30 June 2008, but will now leave 12 months later in order “to further progress our delivery and growth agenda,” he said yesterday.

The executive, who replaced Sir Philip Watts in 2004 has restored investor confidence in Shell after the debacle over the company’s over-statement of its reserves which led to lawsuits and a fall in the share price.

“Van der Veer has done an excellent job steering the company in the right direction after the reserves scandal, and Shell now looks favourable compared with BP,” said one analyst.

The seemingly smooth agreement to stay beyond the normal retirement date, which requires executives to go in the first June after their 60th birthday, is in marked contrast to the retirement strategy planned by BP’s Lord Browne. The BP chief executive’s attempt to stay beyond his 60th year led to a rift with chairman Peter Sutherland.

Since Mr van der Veer took over, Shell’s share price has risen about 17pc while BP shares have gained 3pc.

A Shell spokesman said that Mr van der Veer always hoped to stay in the job for five years “because it would give him time to deliver his strategy”.

The immediate task is to grow production and boost replacement of reserves, especially since Shell lost control of the huge Sakhalin 2 gas field in Russia last year.

The announcement has not quelled speculation about who might take over. Analysts consider Malcolm Brinded, 54, head of exploration and production, as the front runner.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/03/29/cnshell29.xml

Related article: Van der Veer may look to out-Browne Browne

The oil industry is a long-lead business, but the fortunes of those who run it can turn quickly. Four years ago under Sir Philip Watts and Co, Shell became embroiled in a reserves debacle.

At the time BP chief Lord Browne could do no wrong. Watts’s replacement Jeroen van der Veer has helped restore Shell’s dignity and profits, while the soon-to-retire Browne leaves under a cloud. Shell’s news yesterday that van der Veer is staying beyond his normal retirement date was warmly welcomed. Compare that with the row created when Browne wanted to do this. But why does van der Veer want to stay, when he could leave with a £10m pension pot and a collective pat on the back for a job well done?

Having seen what happened to his old foe Lord Browne, van der Veer knows his star could wane quickly. Could it be that he fancies he has one last deal to do? That much-speculated merger with BP perhaps?

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/03/29/ccom29.xml#3

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