The first BP AGM since the oil spill, and the first one with Bob Dudley at the helm, has come to a close. With the various disputes and controversies surrounding the company at the moment, did Mr Dudley come out of it with his reputation enhanced? And what about the other parties represented? Here is our take:
This could have been a lot worse for Mr Dudley, especially with signs that his flagship move to agree a share swap with Rosneft is slipping through his fingers. He was helped by an agreement overnight to extend the Rosneft deal to let BP try to get it through arbitration. This allowed him to tell the audience the deal was still on.
He was also helped by his performing style. He showed authenticity when mentioning his own background holidaying in the Gulf of Mexico as a child, sympathy when reading out a list of the people who had died on Deepwater Horizon, and robustness when rebutting claims about the amount of oil that had spilled onto the ocean floor. At times he hammed it up, but in front of thousands of shareholders, a performance is occasionally needed.
Oil sands campaigners
Half way through the meeting, several campaigners against Canadian oil sands were carted away shouting anti-BP slogans. That, coupled with some very eloquent speeches by representatives of first nation people who have been affected by this extraction, helped attract maximum attention to their cause. Mr Dudley admitted that BP’s methods of extracting oil sands was more polluting than conventional crude, but failed to deal with the complaints that increased traffic and pollution had affected the way of life for many of those who live in the area.
Mr Dudley made it clear he would not cede to the demands from AAR to buy BP’s Russian partners out of the joint TNK-BP venture. This was the first time he had spoken in public about what had gone wrong with the deal, and was admirably clear and specific on the terms of the deal. He said BP and Rosneft had offered cash and Arctic opportunities for the other 50 per cent of the JV, but were not about to offer a significant chunk of BP shares.
Oil spill campaigners
Although the fishermen and women from the Gulf of Mexico who turned up to show their displeasure at the compensation being offered by BP in the wake of last year’s oil spill caught a lot of attention, they failed to get access to the conference hall itself. They claimed to have proxy votes which would enable them to attend, but the company said they posed a potential risk to other shareholders.
BP’s chairman looked wooden in comparison to his new CEO. He failed to tackle the Rosneft situation properly, saying only:
We have to be realistic. Exactly how it will unfold I don’t want to speculate. I can assure you we will do what we can to land it in a good way.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t really wash with shareholders.