ROTTERDAM - Shell will no longer give press conferences when presenting its annual and quarterly results. Only financial analysts will be allowed at the presentation of the oil and gas giant’s third-quarter results and future presentations. Journalists will be allowed to call in and listen but not ask questions, reports.
Shell says it wants to “simplify” the process surrounding its quarterly reporting and bring it in line with industry peers. American oil and gas companies ExxonMobil and Chevron also don’t hold press conferences, the company said.
Follow This, a collective of green shareholders, is critical of the move. “This is a clear step to minimize critical questions about climate policy,” spokesperson Mark van Baal told FD. “By no longer answering critical questions from journalists, the Shell board is placing itself even further outside society,” he said. “They deprive journalists of the only way to ask questions directly and unfiltered to the board.”
Thomas Bruning of the journalists’ union NVJ isn’t surprised by the move. “It fits with a trend in which companies and governments are trying to take control of information. And they don’t have that control at a press conference. Then you get unexpected questions from journalists,” he said.
A spokesperson for Shell told FD that the decision to scrap press conferences is purely logistical, and journalists can still ask their questions to the company’s press department. “In the days that we publish figures, the analyst call is open to journalists, and journalists can always contact us with questions. And there will certainly continue to be other opportunities to speak to board members.”
However, according to Van Baal of Follow This, listening in on the analysts is a waste of time. “Most analysts are focused on the short term and ask questions about the upcoming quarters,” he said. He expects little to no mention of the long-term or climate policy.
Van Baal fears that the shareholders’ meeting will soon be the only time of the year that Shell’s board members face critical questions that are not filtered by communications departments and give responses that aren’t prepared in advance. And then only shareholders have a chance to pose questions.
Reints Amba, director of the investors’ association , sees no problem with Shell canceling the press conferences. “The quarterly figures are published and explained by the board via an analyst call. I think that is sufficiently transparent,” Amba told FD. “Aren’t the media man enough to ask questions through their own channels? A company shoots itself in the foot if it is insufficiently transparent to society at large.”