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Daily Telegraph: Isis heads for showdown at Shell meeting


By Christopher Hope, Business Correspondent (Filed: 15/06/2004)


Isis yesterday became the first big shareholder in Shell to say that it will attend the embattled oil and gas giant's annual meeting this month. 


The news is further evidence that pressure is growing on the beleaguered management to unveil large scale changes to the Anglo-Dutch company's complex structure at the meeting on June 28.


Shell also said yesterday that it had moved the location of its London meeting - a separate one is held in the Netherlands - to a new venue that is five times bigger than the normal location.


The meeting is likely to be one of the stormiest in years as investors vent their fury in the wake of Shell's admission in January that it had overstated its "proven" reserves by 20pc. Isis, which holds 1pc of Shell, forecast that "quite a number" of other big investors will attend. Such action is rare for big fund managers who prefer to carry out conversations behind closed doors.


Richard Singleton, head of corporate governance at the activist fund manager, said: "I look forward to hearing what they [Shell] are going to say." Mr Singleton expected to see representatives from other big investors at the meeting. "I think quite a number will wish to go. It is unusual to have a meeting where one is promised significant new material."


Shell has promised to provide an update to shareholders of its plans to reform its dual structure at the meeting. Shell is run by two boards. It is 60pc-owned by Royal Dutch, listed in the Netherlands, and 40pc-owned by Shell Transport and Trading, traded in London.


Mr Singleton said he was keen to hear about the progress of any changes: "The structure provides a lack of accountablility. But if one pushes too hard one could have the door slammed in one's face."


Other fund managers were less forthcoming about their plans. Standard Life Investments, which has 2pc of Shell, said it had not yet decided whether to attend.


A Shell spokesman said: "We are in dialogue with shareholders and take their concerns seriously but are unable to comment on individual meetings. All shareholders have the right to attend the annual meeting."


The company has been in crisis since announcing that it had overestimated its proven reserves by 3.9billion barrels. Three further revisions followed, taking the total restatement to 4.47billion barrels.


It has moved the meeting's venue from Westminster's Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, which can take up to 4,000 shareholders, to the ExCel centre, which can accommodate 20,000.

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