Protests and angry investors colour BP meeting

Protestors against BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster and Canadian tar sands exploration disrupted its annual meeting today, while the company came under fire from a range of investors.

Shareholders tackled BP’s board with questions over its risk management, climate change, environmental damage and the fallout from its $16bn (£9.8bn) share swap deal with Russian government-owned Rosneft.

A group of five campaigners from the Gulf, one of whom had covered themselves in a black oil-like substance, were refused entry to the meeting by security guards and police, as a brass band – part of another protest involving BP workers – played in the background.

Some protesters who owned shares and gained access to the hall quizzed management on its safety record. The board said it was working to change BP's culture.

Others that stood up to criticise its production of heavy oils from tar sands in Canada, a heavily polluting process, were swiftly ejected from the room by security.

More than 11 per cent of BP shareholders, including proxy voters not present at the meeting, voted down its remuneration report as a protest at the large salaries awarded for the disastrous year, including a multi-million package for former chief executive Tony Hayward.

Seven per cent voted against the re-election of chairman Carl Svandberg while 25 per cent of proxy investors opposed re-electing Bill Castell, the head of BP’s safety committee.

But the majority of shareholders present appeared supportive of BP and booed, heckled or slow hand-clapped those who voiced opposition, such as a US woman who read out a statement from the family of an oil worker killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.

Chief executive Bob Dudley’s opening speech was applauded. “We had some very tough days but I looked at what our people were doing and I knew that BP could recover,” he said.

Svandberg used his speech to defend BP’s response to the oil spill.

“I believe the Board responded strongly during the crisis. It was an intense period. We met many times and spoke daily. We stayed united and resilient,” he said.

“All directors were committed to ensuring that the Company responded effectively and correctly. We did not shy away from taking tough decisions.”

Investors also raised concerns about BP’s tie-up with Rosneft, which has sparked a spat with BP’s oligarch partners in its Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

Dudley said he had tried many options to soothe the billionaires without success.

A spokesman for BP said the party from the Gulf was refused entry and the other protesters were carried out because the company has an obligation to run an orderly AGM.