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BP shareholders are today bidding farewell to Lord Browne at the AGM and we have our chief energy correspondent, Carola Hoyos, in the room. We tried to get a photographer in there as well, but the company said no and Lord Browne apparently dodged the cameras outside the conference centre in London’s Docklands by slipping in through a side door. We’ll bring you the tears and the tomatoes.
Chairman Peter Sutherland’s speech was well-crafted. There was humility: ”We have seen the group face, and continue to face, a series of regulatory issues in the US – a perfect storm, if you like, but mostly of our own making” and “as the company faces more and varied challenges so must we, as a board, up our own game”.
There was determination: “It would be all too easy for the board to require the company to turn in on itself to become ultra cautious and risk adverse. This is not the nature of BP.”
And there was understatement: “I have enjoyed working with John. As in any relationship we have had our occasional ups and downs” but he added: “we have worked together for nearly as long as he has been CEO and for me it has been an invigorating and rewarding experience.” Lord Browne limited his thanks to Sutherland to the statutory passing reference.
Lord Browne also said the Texas City explosion was “the saddest and darkest day in my working life at BP”.
Elsewhere, Rob Woodward, who was brought in as chief executive of SMG in an investor putsch this year, plans to float off Virgin Radio and concentrate on television. At the same time he is taking some massive write-offs on the Virgin Radio business and Pearl and Dean cinema advertising business the group is trying to sell. SMG shares are up nearly 3 per cent, which is a rare experience.
Failure by England to qualify for the European football championships would be harmful to profits this year at JJB Sports, chief executive Tom Knight warned today as he reported annual profits.
SABMiller has appeared to pour cold water on rumours that it is planning a bid for Scottish & Newcastle. Malcolm Wyman, chief financial officer, said the western European beer market was “singularly unattractive” and described the speculation as “old rumours bubbling up and resurfacing again”.