Protests mar BP’s meeting

Marion Dakers
BP management faced angry protests from shareholders yesterday, as investors concerned about Russian deals, tar sands projects and the Gulf of Mexico disaster gave the company a bloody nose in the annual vote.

BP said yesterday that prospective Russian partner Rosneft has given the firm more time to clear the path for its £10bn share swap, though bosses yesterday remained cautious.

Chief executive Bob Dudley confirmed that BP had offered to buy out Russian partner AAR to allow its deal with Rosneft to go ahead, while chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg conceded: “I don’t think it would be a possibility to bring them on side more than we thought we had.”

Dudley said the relationship with AAR “is not dysfunctional, it’s noisy. Our relationship is very good with Rosneft, and with TNK, it’s not personal. It’s business.”

Svanberg stressed that Russia remains a key part of BP’s strategy, pointing out that the TNK-BP project has delivered $16bn (£9.8bn) in dividends since it was formed in 2003.

A sizeable minority of shareholders – 11 per cent – voted against BP’s director remuneration report, while five per cent rejected its annual report, compared with last year when 91 and 99.8 per cent of voters approved the respective resolutions.

BP’s first AGM since the Gulf disaster last April drew dozens of vocal protestors. Svanberg told the meeting that five shareholders lobbying for the rights of Gulf fisherman had been barred from entry, while four people shouting against BP’s Canadian tar sands projects were dragged out of the ExCel centre by security.