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Shell wins Sijthoff prize for reporting in a disaster year for the oil sector

English translation of an article published by the Dutch equivalent of the Financial Times, the FD. 


Shell wins Sijthoff prize for reporting in a disaster year in the oil sector

“This is remarkable, now that the oil and gas company is under social pressure, such as because of tax morality with regard to remittances in the Netherlands…”

Cor de Horde and Pim Kakebeeke: October 29, 2020

Shell receives the FD Henri Sijthoff prize from Sijthoff jury member Roderick Munsters (right) during an online meeting Photo: Sander van Nieuwenhuys

In brief

  • Shell, Sligro and Tennet win the FD Henri Sijthoff prize.
  • The jury praises the enormous progress in quality at Shell.
  • New British regulations have helped the Dutch-British company with this.

On Thursday evening, Shell received the FD Henri Sijthoff prize in the most important category, namely that of the main funds on Damrak in Amsterdam. This is remarkable, now that the oil and gas company is under social pressure, such as because of tax morality with regard to remittances in the Netherlands, and the share has suffered considerable price losses this year.

‘We do not assess the stock market value of a company or its performance,’ explains jury member Roderick Munster, who presented the prize to Marjan van Loon, director of Shell Netherlands, during an online meeting. ‘We assess the quality of the reporting. And that has taken a big step last year. Shell stood head and shoulders above it this year. ‘

The improvement process is partly a result of the introduction of a new British corporate governance code. ‘It was introduced in 2019 and is one of the most advanced codes in Europe,’ says Munsters, who is also a member of the Monitoring Committee, responsible for recommendations in this area in the Netherlands.

Detailed regulations

‘For example, the British rules prescribe quite detailed how you conduct a dialogue with stakeholders and what you do with it in reporting,’ Munsters explains. ‘The fact that Shell is a plc (a British company, ed.) Is not an obstacle at all, but has actually helped.’

The fact that there is sometimes social criticism of Shell in the Netherlands – such as about tax payments – was no reason for the jury to refuse the prize. ‘What we assess is Shell plc, not Shell Nederland. That report is transparent and addresses dilemmas. There are indeed companies that score better in the overview of corporate tax paid. For example, I remember how last year’s winner, Randstad, did that. So improvement is conceivable at Shell. ‘

The jury assesses all companies listed on Damrak, including other Dutch-British companies such as Relx and Unilever in addition to Shell. It has been twenty years since Shell, for a long time the largest stock exchange fund on the Damrak, received the Sijthoff Prize.

Other winners of the FD Henri Sijthof Prize

Sligro was declared the winner of the other listed companies. ‘Sligro always delivers a compact report that excels in simplicity and clarity,’ says the jury report. Despite its compactness, it offers good insights and a thorough financial analysis. In addition, sufficient attention is paid to non-financial performance and the interests of various stakeholders.

In the case of non-listed companies, the prize goes to network company Tennet. According to the jury, the company clearly explains its strategy and provides good insight into liquidity. Another positive aspect is that the supervisory directors’ report pays attention to the management letter, the annual letter from the accountant to the corporate board.

Risk paragraph

Earlier this month, the jury called for an improvement in the risk paragraph. According to them, companies provide far too little information about the risks they run and what they are doing about them. Winner Shell excels at describing scenarios, says Munsters. ‘That helps shareholders. Then you know: if this happens, then those are the consequences. ‘

They did, however, observe a higher quality of the reporting. This opinion is shared with Piet Hein Coebergh, lecturer at Hogeschool Leiden, in his annual annual report survey. For example, companies made steps forward with regard to benchmarking, personnel and diversity. But with an average score of 4.2, there is still a lot of room for improvement for the top 75 listed companies.

The jury of the FD Henri Sijthoff Prize consists of chairman Peter Sampers, professor of accounting in Maastricht, former investor Roderick Munsters (in the past ABP and Robeco among others) and banker Jan van Rutte (chairman of the supervisory board of de Volksbank).


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