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Shell and BG investor who attacked £40bn tie-up will also back deal

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By Andrew Trotman: 12 Jan 2016

Standard Life Investments is to use its stake in BG Group to back the oil company’s £40bn merger with Royal Dutch Shell, just days after calling the deal “value destructive”.

The investment firm, which owns 2.1pc of Shell and 1.3pc of BG, plans to support the proposal at the latter’s annual general meeting on January 28,

It comes less than a week after David Cumming, head of equities at Standard Life Investments, vowed to vote against the deal using the Shell stake because the low oil price would not make it worthwhile.

Standard Life Investments also has concerns over BG’s assets in Brazil, which is at risk of heft tax bills in the struggling South American economy.

“We have concluded that the proposed terms of the acquisition of BG are value destructive for Shell shareholders,” Mr Cumming said on Friday. “This view is based on the downside risks to Shell’s oil price assumptions plus the tax and operational risks surrounding BG’s Brazilian asset base. We shall vote against the deal.”

Since then, Brent crude has fallen more than $2 to settle at $31.36 on Monday. Oil has slumped more than 70pc since July 2014.

Sources told The Telegraph that using the BG stake to support the deal would be in the best interests of Standard Life Investments’ clients.

Regulators around the world have given the green light to the deal, but Shell’s bosses still have to win over some sceptical investors. It is planning to slash $7bn (£4.7bn) of costs, $8bn of investment and 10,300 jobs if shareholders approve its plan.

Two large proxy advisors have backed the Shell-BG deal. Glass Lewis became the second such outfit to add its voice of approval, following the support of ISS.

Glass Lewis advises US shareholders, where around 30pc of Shell’s shareholders and a quarter of BG’s are based. Of Shell’s 50 largest shareholders, a dozen consult with Glass Lewis.

Standard Life Investments declined to comment on the move, which was first reported by Sky News.

A Shell spokesman said: “We’re confident the deal retains broad shareholder support and will complete as expected.”

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