As we near the end of BP’s AGM, one thing we can report is that Bob Dudley is still standing. Which is more than can be said of several protesters against the development of Canadian oil sands who were carted out, in some cases lifted off their feet, after shouting across Mr Dudley as he tried to defend such developments.
It has not been an easy ride for Mr Dudley in his first AGM as CEO, nor for the chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. Several representatives of Gulf of Mexico communities were banned and if the company thought barring such people would limit criticism on this front they were wrong. One of the toughest moments for the board came when one woman read out a testimony excoriating the company from the father of Gordon Jones, one of the rig workers who was killed almost a year ago today.
In response, Mr Dudley’s tone lowered as he read out a list of the names of the 11 people who died in the accident. But he robustly rejected government estimates of the amount of oil spilled, comparing the spill to “a fire hydrant on the bottom of the ocean”. Tony Hayward would possibly have not got away with such a comparison.
The company focused on two strands: what it is doing about safety and risk, and how it intends to grow. On the latter, it was able to deflect at least some of the criticism that might otherwise have come its way from the problems with its share swap with Rosneft by agreeing an extension on the deal late the previous night.
But unsurprisingly there were still some tough questions. Mr Dudley said he did not believe BP had violated its agreement with TNK-BP as TNK-BP is not an offshore company, and so this deal would have no detrimental effect. He also insisted BP would not cede to TNK-BP’s demand to take a significant shareholding in BP. He even quipped to one questioner who referred to the “dysfunctional” TNK board: “The TNK board is not dysfunctional. It is noisy.”
Some shareholders made it clear they would vote against BP’s annual accounts for a variety of reasons, whether safety, the lack of information on the Gulf clean-up operation, oil sands or the Rosneft deal. We will bring you the final vote tally on the motions discussed when we have them.