Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

The Independent: Oil giant retreats back into its Shell


By Michael Harrison, Business Editor

26 April 2004


Royal Dutch/Shell, the crisis-torn oil giant, is considering limiting communications with the financial markets when it publishes its first quarter results later this week.


The company, which is at the centre of criminal investigations on both sides of the Atlantic into the overbooking of oil and gas reserves, is undecided whether to make senior executives available for interview or allow its acting finance director to brief City analysts.


Investors are likely to be furious if the company seeks to deny access to its senior management when it reports first-quarter figures on Thursday because Shell's lack of communication with the markets is viewed as one of its greatest failings.


Sir Philip Watts, Shell's former chairman, helped seal his fate when he was absent from the briefing in January at which the company dropped the bombshell that proven reserves were being cut by 20 per cent or 3.9 billion barrels.


The company also appears to be engaged in an attempt to downplay the damning report published a week ago by its own audit committee revealing the lengths to which Shell had gone to conceal problems with its reserves booking policy.


Shell is doing everything it can to distance itself from the scandal and pin the blame on Sir Philip and its former head of exploration and production, Walter van de Vijver.


The report, compiled by the US law firm Davis, Polk and Wardell, detailed a stream of emails from Mr van de Vijver, culminating with his now famous complaint that he was "sick and tired of lying about the extent of our reserves issues".


Judy Boynton, Shell's finance director, has also paid with her job and a question mark continues to hang over the future of the new chairman, Jeroen van der Veer, who was privy to warnings that Shell had vastly overbooked reserves up to two years before it made a public disclosure.

Click here to return to Royal Dutch Shell Group .com