The Guardian (UK): What they said about ... Shell's profits: “The oil company's profits were "obscene" said Clinton Manning in the Daily Mirror. "It's enough to make your blood boil…” (ShellNews.net) 5 Feb 05
Shell posted the biggest annual profit ever made by a British company on Thursday. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant's 2004 profits of pounds 9.31bn were up by more than a third on 2003's figures and beat the previous record for a British company of pounds 7.7bn, set by HSBC last year.
The oil company's profits were "obscene" said Clinton Manning in the Daily Mirror. "It's enough to make your blood boil. In the three minutes it takes to fill your car with pounds 50 of petrol, Shell will have rung up another pounds 53,000 profit." It was "no wonder that among the howls of protest" was a call from the Labour MP Martin O'Neill, the chairman of the Commons trade and industry select committee, for a windfall tax on Shell's profits.
"Of course, those who think that all profit is evil have jumped on Shell for taking advantage of motorists and pensioners struggling to meet their fuel bills," said Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail . But, he said, critics needed "to think more carefully before they demand a windfall tax . . . We all benefit from higher profits. Both oil revenue taxes and corporation tax rise with the petrol price, increasing income for the Treasury."
"We should be proud of its profits," agreed the Daily Telegraph . "A windfall tax makes no economic sense. A certain and stable tax system is a necessary precondition to doing business here and, if companies were vulnerable to punitive levies every time they made big profits, the climate for investment would deteriorate drastically."
Mr O'Neill's intervention was predictable, reckoned Patience Wheatcroft in the Times . "The idea of companies making billions of pounds of profits still brings shudders of disapproval from consumer groups as well as leftwing politicians."
However, she said, Gordon Brown, as chancellor of the exchequer, would not want to be associated with a call for a windfall tax on corporate profits, which was why the Treasury had issued a statement ruling them out. Mr Brown "has come round to the view that governments do best out of successful businesses. Threats of windfall taxes will only remind companies that perhaps they would feel more comfortable based elsewhere, maybe somewhere with a warmer climate in every sense." Sandra Smith.