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BP top brass split over impact of a Yes vote for independence

BP CHAIRMAN Carl-Henric Svanberg has taken a more emollient stance on Scottish independence than the oil giant's chief executive by admitting it would not have a major long-term impact on its North Sea operations.

DIFFERING OPINIONS: BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, left, alongside the company's chief executive Bob Dudley. Picture: Toby Melville/Reuters
DIFFERING OPINIONS: BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, left, alongside the company's chief executive Bob Dudley. Picture: Toby Melville/Reuters

Nearly a third of BP shareholders yesterday rebelled against pay policies that tripled chief Bob Dudley's pay last year, although the company won the backing of frequent critic Standard Life Investments (SLI).

With a 20% stake in Russia's Rosneft, BP also sought to play down the risks to the company of the Ukraine crisis.

Discussing Scottish independence, Mr Svanberg told BP's annual investor meeting in London: "It would not have, I would say, any major implications long-term but anything that creates uncertainty will always mean more caution from business investors."

He added: "Our commitment to the North Sea certainly continues."

But Mr Dudley, in line with his comments in February, pursued a more robust line.

He told the event at the Excel Centre: "We have a £10 billion programme of investment over the next 10 years in the North Sea. Therefore uncertainty does make us think carefully about issues like currency and other things."

Edinburgh-based SLI, long a critic of executive pay at BP, agreed to back the oil giant's remuneration policies citing positive progress despite a trebling in chief Bob Dudley's package to £5.2 million last year.

Mike Everett, SLI's governance and stewardship director, told that meeting that BP's pay policies had improved but "the journey is not yet complete".

"In light of these improvements we have decided, this year, to support the remuneration resolutions," he said. "However, I want to make clear the importance we place on the remuneration committee exercising its discretion diligently and effectively."

This didn't stop other investors giving BP a rap on the knuckles with 31.9% of investors failing to support the company's remuneration report.

Its pay policies for the coming three years were backed by a healthier margin in a separate vote.

Private investor John Farmer said: "The remuneration is inappropriately high given the catastrophic record of the company."

Another small shareholder, Mike Porter, contrasted the salaries paid to executives with returns to shareholders after year in which BP's profits fell 22%.

Mr Svanberg said: "The energy industry is truly global. We compete in a global market and BP must ensure that we are able to attract and retain the best people. Executives must be rewarded according to the company's success."

BP's directors tried to reassure investors about the prospects for its near 20% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft despite to ongoing disputes in the Crimea region. Mr Dudley said BP acted as a "bridge" between Russia and Europe..

Mr Putin has told European leaders a dispute over Ukraine's gas debt to Russia could affect supplies of Russian gas to Europe and proposed urgent discussions on the matter.

But Mr Dudley played down the threat: "Neither side can or will turn this (the gas pipelines) off.

"It would be a significant problem for everyone."

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