Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

The Observer: First get rid of Watts, say Shell investors  

Oliver Morgan, industrial editor

Sunday January 18, 2004


Shell investors are demanding a showdown meeting with chairman Sir Philip Watts to press for his resignation.


A group of shareholders are 'actively engaged' with the Shell board and have said they want the crunch meeting before Watts presents the company's fourth-quarter results on 5 February.


Investors believe the 'Watts issue' must be dealt with before other concerns about the dual structure of the company and its governance are addressed. One leading share holder said: 'We need change, and it has to start at the top.'


Investors are furious with Watts for his absence from a crucial conference call on 9 January at which Shell announced it was no longer counting 20 per cent of its oil and gas reserves as 'proved'. Shares have since plummeted.


Following reports last week that some Shell directors were supporting Watts, investors are stepping up the pressure for him to stand down.


A leading shareholder said: 'At the moment it looks as if executives have closed ranks. We are actively engaged, and we are being robust. They have got to have very good reasons for keeping Watts if we are to accept them.' He added that the company was lame while the stand-off with investors continued because it could not get shareholder support for any strategic changes needed to close the 20 per cent gap in share price that now separates it from rivals BP and ExxonMobil.


Other investors are also keen to ensure that Shell's management structure, in which the chairman is 'first among equals' on a committee of managing directors, is overhauled.,6903,1125395,00.html


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