Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, is working on a plan to merge its two classes of shares, Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser told analysts today.
Shell created the Class A and Class B shares following the merger of Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and Shell Transporting & Trading Co. into Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The new shares started trading on the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the New York Stock Exchange as American Depositary Receipts on July 20, 2005. They differ in the way dividends are paid.
“I’m not going to promise anything,” Voser said on a conference call, referring to tax issues that need to be sorted out first. “If it comes, you will see us go very fast into the one-share structure, which then will actually give us all the flexibility which we need.”
Shell investors and analysts today urged Voser to expand a share buyback program to return value at a time when the company is generating additional cash at oil prices over $100 a barrel. The Anglo-Dutch company can only buy back Class B shares and not Class A shares “as a result of withholding tax restrictions,” Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said today.
Shell, which will increase its first-quarter dividend to 43 cents from 42 cents announced in the fourth quarter, doesn’t plan to expand its buyback program, Voser said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
“We paid 12 percent of FTSE dividend last year and we are now showing to our shareholders that we are increasing again,” Voser said.