THE GLOBAL oil giant BP Amoco faces a damaging confrontation with some of its shareholders at its annual general meeting in London next week amid allegations that it is abandoning its pledge to diversify into eco-friendly energy production.
The meeting will be presented with at least two politically charged motions asking for changes in strategy. Protests are also expected from important American shareholders, who complain that their efforts to submit a resolution on drilling for oil in Alaska was unfairly disqualified by the board.
Plans detailed by President George Bush to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska to oil exploration has driven a wedge between BP - which wants to be the first to start drilling - and many of its investors, especially those based in the US. The White House hopes to begin awarding leases to the oil companies within the next three years.
Greenpeace, the environmental lobby group, led the effort with a resolution asking the BP board to detail how the company intends fulfilling its promise to make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. A second resolution, mounted by the Free Tibet Campaign, asks BP to sell its stake in PetroChina because of its projects inside Tibet.
Hoping to embarrass BP, Greenpeace is drawing attention to its sunburst logo and the accompanying "Beyond Petroleum" motto. "We want to know what they mean," said Kathy Cooper of Greenpeace. "Whether it will be more than just throwing a couple of quid into solar energy."
It is the US holders who are most restless. Last year, a coalition that included financial institutions as well as religious investment groups won surprisingly strong support for a resolution demanding more information from BP on how it would drill in the Arctic wilderness without damaging its rare ecosystem. The resolution was backed by 13 per cent of shareholders.
But BP managed this year to block the submission of a similar resolution, arguing that American shareholders do not have the same rights at the annual general meeting as British shareholders.
Simon Billenness, a senior analyst for Trillium Asset Management in Boston, said last night: "I think this is very shortsighted for BP." Mr Billenness intends speaking out about discrimination against US stockholders at the AGM on Thursday. …