London Evening Standard: Shell: 'We're ready for shake-up'
22 March 2004
SCANDAL-struck Shell insisted today it was ready and willing to shake up its century-old structure as it sought to pacify investors furious over the crisis engulfing the oil giant.
Non-executive directors Lord Oxburgh and new ITV chairman Peter Burt told a dozen major fund managers it wanted to work with them to move the Anglo-Dutch group on.
One investor at the meeting, hosted by the Association of British Insurers, said: 'It was a constructive meeting and the company signalled it is willing to contemplate change.'
Fund managers have been urging Shell to ditch its dual-listed corporate structure since it shocked the City by slashing its proven reserves by 3.9bn barrels - some 20% - in January.
The group is 60% owned by Royal Dutch, with the remainder held by UK-listed Shell Transport & Trading. The two boards are overseen by a third - the committee of managing directors.
Investors attending today's confrontation used the example of mining giant BHP Billiton - two operating companies run by a Plc board - as a possible new structure for Shell.
Oxburgh, appointed as chairman of Shell's UK arm when Sir Philip Watts resigned three weeks ago, reiterated that the group's internal investigation into the reserves crisis should be complete early next month.
Speaking after the meeting, Oxburgh said: 'It was a very constructive and helpful meeting ... an excellent meeting. A whole range of matters was discussed. Nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out.'
Shell's reputation has been battered since January's downgrade. It cut reserves again last week and is awaiting the outcome of a US Securities and Exchange Commission probe.
The group announced today that it plans sweeping cost-cutting in Nigeria.