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Posts on ‘January 21st, 2006’

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Soldiers, militia fighters clash at Shell oil platform at dawn

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigerian troops battled militia fighters in swamps around a Royal Dutch Shell oil platform that militants attacked at dawn Sunday. It was the third assault on Shell oil facilities in less than a week.
Shell confirmed the attack on the Benisede oil platform in the southern Niger Delta and said some of its staff were taken to a hospital. The company also said it was evacuating vulnerable facilities.
In a statement, Shell said “heavily armed persons” in speedboats attacked the platform early Sunday, burn- ing down staff accommodations and damaging the facility.
Soldiers guarding Benisede returned automatic-weapons fire, but it was unclear whether they had lost control of the platform, said Brig. Gen. Elias Zamani, commander of a task force charged with security in the volatile oil region.
Zamani had no other details of the fighting.
Residents reported continuous gunfire and the firing of heavy guns. “There is a war going on here,” Enitowari Inengi, a resident near Benisede, said by telephone. “People are scared and are taking their boats and moving away.”
On Wednesday, gunmen attacked Shell's EA platform near the delta coast, seizing a Bulgarian, an American, a Briton and a Honduran. A major Shell pipeline was blown up the next day.
The first two attacks initially forced a 10 percent drop in Nigeria's oil exports. read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

Wall Street Journal: Energy: Bracing for Crisis at Davos Forum

January 21, 2006; Page A2
Every year, more than 2,000 businesspeople, politicians, celebrities and journalists from around the world gather in the Swiss ski resort of Davos to network. The World Economic Forum — which charges chief executives $23,000 for an annual membership plus $18,000 a pop for tickets to the conference — picks a theme for them to talk about.
Most years, the participants then talk about something completely different.
The theme for this year's meeting, which begins next week, is “The Creative Imperative,” with a focus on doing business with China and India. The real buzz probably will center on energy security.
Much of the energy world is making the trek to Davos, including the head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and top executives from Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Total SA, OAO Lukoil and Saudi Aramco. In mostly private sessions at the four-star Schweizerhof hotel, they'll be holding their own daylong mini-Davos on Thursday.
In one 3½-hour session, an energy-crisis simulation will posit that terrorist attacks cause oil prices to rise to more than $120 a barrel. Among those on hand to figure out the impact and how to respond will be oil and insurance CEOs, the head of the International Energy Agency and President Bush's international energy adviser, Faryar Shirzad.
The global economy may have weathered the Iraq war and surging oil and natural-gas prices pretty well so far. But nervousness has been rising again. Hurricane Katrina showed some of the vulnerabilities of the energy system to natural disaster. Over the holidays, Russia cut off natural gas to Ukraine and Moldova, causing pressure in the pipeline to Western Europe to drop briefly. That triggered a panicked Europe to debate how to diversify energy supplies.
Now Iran is roiling energy markets, as the U.S. and European Union aim to ratchet up pressure on Tehran to abandon nuclear programs that might be used to make weapons. That's raised concerns that Iran's four-million-barrel-a-day production could be disrupted. Oil prices are pushing back toward their recent peak, reached after Katrina in intraday trading, of $70.85 a barrel.
None of this will get resolved at Davos. But the ability to gather so many Fortune 500 CEOs, top politicians, NGO heads and thinkers in a room together and let them work it out may get some ideas rolling. That, according to the forum's founder and president, Klaus Schwab, is what makes Davos different from other talking shops.
Of late, Hollywood celebrities have generated a lot of Davos buzz, too. Last year actors Sharon Stone and Richard Gere stole the show — sparking criticism that Davos had gone Hollywood. Apparently, some of that criticism stung Mr. Schwab and it looks like Ms. Stone won't get invited again.
She “had a little bit of her own show, and that is not what we really appreciate,” Mr. Schwab said in an interview. Stars, including Michael Douglas, will leaven the mix of suits again this year, but they'll include more intellectual types, too, like the architect Rem Koolhaas, Mr. Schwab said. Mr. Koolhaas is as famous in the architecture world as Ms. Stone is in movies — though perhaps without the same primal draw.
Write to Marc Champion at [email protected] read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

The Times: Shell shareholders’ squabbles are sheer lunacy

Graham Searjeant
PEOPLE are playing many strange new roles on the stock market that were never envisaged when the capitalist system of joint ownership was developed and the principles of company law evolved. The most peculiar of these new life forms are institutional shareholders who sue the companies they own. They are so odd that it is hard to square their relationship with the company with the formal roles of shareholders, such as voting to elect directors and to approve or reject their stewardship.
Last week 26 Dutch pension funds that had owned shares in Royal Dutch Petroleum got together to sue its successor, Royal Dutch Shell, in an American court for a sum that their lawyer could only estimate as “hundreds of millions” of dollars, euros or pounds. The funds, led by the £140 billion civil servants and teachers’ scheme, together represent more than half Dutch pension scheme members.
They are rightly aggrieved that Shell’s former management reported figures for proven oil and gas reserves using the sort of generous interpretation that the Treasury so often commends to the Office for National Statistics. As we now know, this went on for years and was a subject of debate within Shell. But the figures were wrong only if you assume that the archaic definition preferred by the US Securities & Exchange Commission, but also criticised by rival BP, is the gold standard.
Lawyers will argue whether the figures affected the share price. BP had been running ever farther ahead of Shell for several years but the market’s hysterical reaction to Shell’s restatement of reserve figures widened the gap. If you bought Shell and BP a week before the announcement of January 9, 2004, you would have gained about 45 per cent on BP and 33 per cent on Shell, although Shell’s higher dividend would have narrowed the difference.
That is hardly a disaster, but it is still annoying. Unless you sell out in advance, however, it does not make universal sense to vent that annoyance by suing the company that you part own, knowing that it must pay damages with your money. If all shareholders sued, it would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
In that case, success would be like forcing a company to pay back capital regardless of its needs, as Kirk Kerkorian mistakenly thought of doing at General Motors and William Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund first essayed at McDonald’s. Shell could easily pay out more but there are cheaper ways to achieve that and it might not be the best remedy for lack of reserves.
The other way is to sue other people, usually the auditors, or to differentiate yourself from other investors. The Dutch funds are also suing former directors, more to vent frustration than for financial reasons. They claim to have lost by buying during the key period, implying that others cannot claim compensation.
If the US courts collaborate in this kind of sophistry, they will send a message that any investor who does not employ a lawyer is a second-class shareholder. If institutional investors, hedge funds and billionaires band together to win damages for themselves, the damages will have to be paid not by former directors but by small shareholders.
Shell is not in a strong position to resist the Dutch, having provoked them by settling a different but related lawsuit in the US. But if the oil group’s unified board has learnt from its mistakes over the restructuring, it will try to stop small investors from being fleeced by moralistic institutions. This can be done by promising to pay out equally to all shareholders on whatever basis a court mistakenly decides. At least all investors would be equal, even if the outcome is bad for future returns.
Company articles and company law also need to take account of this daft phenomenon. If a shareholder is suing its fellow shareholders, it has such a perpendicular conflict of interest that it should automatically lose its voting rights. Nor should investors accept the debts of their predecessors.
If investors or former investors sue a company for past misdemeanours, it should be equally obligatory for the company to sue those who owned its shares at that time to compensate present shareholders. That should create such legal and financial chaos that pension funds will think again before trying to extract money unfairly from private investors. read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

Daily Telegraph: VW and Shell join forces on biofuel

(Filed: 21/01/2006)
Volkswagen has signed a letter of intent with Shell and the logen Corporation to conduct a joint study into the feasibility of producing cellulose-based ethanol fuel in Germany. The bioethanol, which is fermented and distilled from waste agricultural products such as corn husks, uses a new process from logen which it claims is up to 90 per cent efficient.
The resulting biofuel cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90 per cent compared with conventional petrol, but initially it would be used to dilute petrol based on mineral oil at a rate of 15 per cent. EU biofuel directives for 2010 propose greater concentrations of ETBE (ethyl tertiary butyl ether), of up to 10 per cent, and VW is supporting this move.
VW Group boss Bernd Pischetsrieder explained the thinking: “The European agreement at Kyoto was to reduce new car emissions of CO2, but with a replacement ratio of 10 per cent and a CO2 reduction of 20 per cent as each old car is replaced [given a typical car life of 10 years], the overall CO2 reduction we can expect cannot be more than two per cent a year.
“In Europe, the car industry will now be measured on its total CO2 contribution rather than just on new cars, and that is why biofuels are the answer – they can reduce the CO2 output from every car on the road.”
Mercedes introduced its Bluetec advanced diesel technology in America last week, and is hoping that this will persuade Americans to buy diesels.
The engines, which are already in use in Mercedes-Benz trucks, use catalytic converters, particulate filters and nitrogen-oxide reduction technology. They meet the stringent exhaust-gas requirements in 50 American states. The first Bluetec engine will be the 3-litre, V6 turbodiesel in the E320 CDi, which goes on sale later this year. Sister company Chrysler will also be fitting Bluetec-equipped engines in future.
Nor is Mercedes the only company trying to persuade the Americans to love diesels. Volkswagen has already committed to bringing diesels to the States, as have Honda and Nissan.
“I see this as a battle of technology, with the Japanese pushing hybrids and the Europeans pushing diesel,” said Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, when asked whether his company would import diesel engines to the US. “Hopefully, we will have both.”
Renault is currently developing a range of V6 and V8 diesels for its partner, although Ghosn did not rule out buying a diesel from an outside supplier in the meantime.
Nothing quite as exciting as Honda's hydrogen project on the Japanese island of Yakushima (Motoring, October 22) was unveiled at the Detroit show, but we did learn that the Australian state of Tasmania is also investigating creating a hydrogen economy for itself and its many offshore islands.
Like Yakushima, Tasmania is rainy and mountainous, so there's a basis for hydro-generated electricity. We'll keep you posted… read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

Financial Times: BUSINESS: Shell attacks in Nigeria

*UK productivity gap grows
Chancellor Gordon Brown's dream of British productivity to rival that of the US was dealt a blow with the publication of figures showing the gap had widened since Labour came to power in 1997.
*Million dollar site hit
The FBI is probing the hijacking of – a website that earned its creator Alex Tew $1m (£567,000) by hosting micro-ads – by hackers who demanded a ransom to restore the site. Mr Tew was sent a demand for $50,000 by e-mail by a hacker, believed to be Russian.
*Tesco still at top of the tree
Tesco reaffirmed its position at the top of Britain's supermarket heap, delivering stronger headline growth than its competitors for the fifth year running. But the market, now used to exceptional performance, gave a lukewarm reception to underlying sales up 5.7 per cent over Christmas.
*Airbus again outsells Boeing
Stellar sales in December allowed Airbus to surprise the aerospace industry by announcing it had won more new orders for commercial aircraft than its US rival for the fifth year running. Boeing, however, won 55 per cent of the market by value in 2005, helped by success in selling long-haul aircraft.
*Cisco targets home electronics
Cisco, the leading internet networking equipment maker, plans to challenge companies such as Sony and Samsung in mainstream consumer electronics. Cisco's chief development officer said demand for devices that could link to the internet would allow the company to enter a new market.
*Europe search engine move
Bertelsmann, the German media group, is set to become German leader of a Franco-German project to create a multimedia search engine that can challenge US dominance. Project Quaero aims to take on Google and Yahoo with a search engine that can sort audio, images and video as well as text.
*Boston gets the upper hand
Boston Scientific achieved a potentially decisive blow in its battle with Johnson & Johnson to take control of Guidant. The US heart devices maker has been a takeover target for more than a year and this week switched support from J&J to Boston.
*Debenhams set for comeback
Debenhams, the department store chain that was delisted in 2003, is set for a return to the stock market. The high street retailer has appointed four banks to assess its strategic options ahead of a listing that could raise more than £3bn and be one of the biggest IPOs this year.
*£2bn BA pensions deficit
British Airway's pension deficit has roughly doubled to about £2bn since the last valuation in March 2003, BA told union representatives. If the company were to wind up its schemes, it would crystallise a debt of £3bn-£4bn, compared with BA's market capitalisation of about £3.6bn.
*US banks perform well
Merrill Lynch showed the success of CEO Stan O'Neal's strategy of cost-control and investment in new businesses, reporting record $5.3bn (£3bn) profits for 2005. Merrill's good investment banking performance was in contrast to that produced by JPMorgan's investment banking arm.
*Minolta to abandon cameras
Konica Minolta is pulling out of the camera and photo businesses and selling some of its digital SLR camera assets to Sony. The surprise move signifies the end of an era in which traditional camera and film companies, many of them Japanese, dominated the market.
*Chirac's nuclear warning
Jacques Chirac, France's president, threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that supported terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction. Mr Chirac said the end of the cold war did not remove the threats to peace or the justification for his country maintaining its nuclear deterrent.
*Bin Laden's carrot and stick
Osama bin Laden warned on audiotape of preparations for new attacks against the US, but the al-Qaeda leader also offered a truce if US troops were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House immediately rejected the suggeston.
*Austria calls for investor tax
Wolfgang Schüssel, chancellor of Austria, which holds the EU presidency, said that short-term financial investors should pay a new tax to help fund the 25-member club. According to Mr Schüssel, the EU should look at new ways of financing its operations to avoid wrangling over the budget.
*Iran in nuclear hot water
Britain dismissed calls from Tehran for the resumption of nuclear talks. The EU3 – France, Germany and Britain – last week said the negotiations were at a dead end after Iran resumed uranium enrichment. They now plan to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
*Chile gets first female leader
Michelle Bachelet, the candidate of Chile's centre-left government coalition, won the run-off election to become the country's first female president, and also South America's first popularly elected female president.
*Cash pledge for bird flu fight
The world's top public health authorities stressed the need for a strategy to allocate funds pledged to fight avian flu. A total of $1.9bn (£1bn) was raised from the international community to fight the disease. The US donated $334m and the EU about $260m.
*Pakistan tense after US attack
Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said Washington could not deal “lightly” with al-Qaeda but promised to address Islamabad's concerns after a US attack on a Pakistani village. Pakistan's prime minister struck a conciliatory note following the incident.
*Shell attacks in Nigeria
Nigeria's security forces were on high alert after a spate of seemingly politically motivated attacks by armed militants on oil facilities operated by Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy group, in the turbulent Niger Delta region.
*New Israeli PM talks peace
Ehud Olmert, Israel's acting prime minister, who replaced Ariel Sharon after he suffered a massive stroke, said he hoped to renew peace talks with the Palestinians after general elections in March but repeated Mr Sharon's precondition that militant groups must first be disarmed.
Compiled by Delphine Strauss, James Fontanella and Emmeline Ravilious read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

The Guardian: Fears for Nigerian hostages as captors warn of fresh oil attacks":

Rory Carroll, Africa correspondent
Saturday January 21, 2006
The Guardian
Concern over four oil workers held hostage in Nigeria grew last night after their captors warned that one was gravely ill and that fresh attacks on oil installations were imminent.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a militant rebel group, seized the Royal Dutch Shell employees from a company vessel last week during a series of assaults on pipelines and flow stations which drove up oil prices.
The hostages, an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran, have been kept on the move in the Niger delta's maze of malaria-infested swamps and tidal creeks.
Patrick Landry, the American, suffers high blood pressure and could soon die, a kidnapper, who described himself as a commander, told Reuters by phone on Thursday. “One of them is sick, badly sick, and could give up tonight. If one of them dies, we kill them all.”
The statement contradicted previous assurances that the captives would remain unharmed as long as the Nigerian army did not attempt a rescue. It also denied Nigerian government claims that negotiations were under way.
Mr Landry, permitted to make a telephone call to friends and colleagues, said: “We are in bad shape, we really are. Meet these people's demands. We are not military: we came here to work.”
Nigel Watson-Clark, the British hostage, read out the militants' demands, which included compensation for pollution, the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders and greater local control over the region's oil wealth.
“I have got to tell you we are under a lot of pressure here and things aren't too good,” said Mr Watson-Clark. He urged Britain to lobby the Nigerian government for their release.
In an email statement yesterday, the rebels gave no update about the hostages but warned of widening their attacks against other oil companies, whom they accuse of collaborating with a corrupt government in siphoning off the region's wealth.
“Be assured that we will continue our attacks very shortly. We are more than capable of sustaining the conflict.”
Since clashes flared last month dozens have been reported killed. Shell has withdrawn 500 workers and cut production by 210,000 barrels a day, about a tenth of national output. Nigeria is the world's eight-largest oil exporter.
In a joint statement the country's two main oil workers' unions threatened to withdraw their members if security was not restored.
To escape the delta's chronic instability, oil companies are moving operations offshore.
Useful links
The Guardian (Nigeria)
Vanguard read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

The Independent: Nigeria urged not to use force to free kidnapped oil workers:

By Daniel Balintkurti in Lagos
Published: 21 January 2006
Britain is urging Nigeria not to use force to free four foreign oil workers held captive by a rebel militia in the south of the country.
A British delegation met Nigerian government officials yesterday in the state of Bayelsa, in the country's oil-rich southern delta, to discuss the crisis.
The workers – a Briton, an American, a Bulgarian and a Honduran – were seized on 11 January near a Shell oilfield by the militant group, which is behind attacks on Nigerian oil installations that have cut the Opec-member nation's crude exports by nearly 10 per cent.
A British high commission spokesman, Graham Bannatyne, said consular officials would remain in the area until the crisis had been resolved.
“The safety of the hostages is paramount to us, and we would not wish to see military action that would endanger their safety,” Mr Bannatyne said.
The governor of Bayelsa has been appointed head of a national committee to resolve the crisis, which was due to meet last night.
The kidnapping of the four workers signalled an escalation in violence in the area. A major Shell pipeline leading to its Forcados export terminal was blown up the following day, and more attacks followed in other areas. Shell has evacuated hundreds of workers from the delta.
The militants are demanding US$1.5bn (£850m) in compensation from Shell for environmental damage. They are also calling for the release of two figureheads of their ethnic Ijaw group: Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a militia leader, and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa .
Mr Dokubo-Asari was jailed in September on treason charges, while Mr Alamieyeseigha faces extradition to Britain, after jumping bail on charges of money laundering.
The kidnapped workers are employed by two companies contracted by Shell in the delta: Ecodrill, a British firm, and Tidewater, an American firm based in Louisiana.
Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer, exports 2.5 million barrels of oil daily and is the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports. AP read more and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

Are you a Shell-Shareholder???

If you aquired your shares within the last 5 years, it is urgent you read the following article NOW! and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.