Shell proposes a shift to Britain, dropping ‘Royal Dutch’ from its name.

Shell appears to be trying to address such concerns. In a news release Monday, Shell said a single share structure would be “simpler for investors to understand and value.” And in a letter to shareholders, Shell’s board said that the new legal structure would make it easier to sell assets and even to break up the company, although it said such a move was not “under active consideration.”

The new set up would remove a limitation that Shell has faced when it offers share buybacks.

Under arrangements dating to 2005, Shell has class A shares, which are subject to a Dutch withholding tax on dividends, and B shares, which are not. Dividends to the two classes of shareholders are paid from profits generated by separate business groups. In practical terms, this situation means that the company can buy back only class B shares, limiting the size of the pool, while management must be careful not to sell assets that might constrain funding for the B share dividends.

The company said that the new arrangement would allow it to accelerate share buybacks by creating a larger pool of shares available for them.

Many analysts welcomed the proposals, although the move could result in the company owing taxes of up to $400 million to the Netherlands, Shell estimates.

“It removes a disadvantage” Shell has faced versus rival companies, Oswald Clint, an analyst at Bernstein, a market research firm, wrote in a note to clients on Monday. Shell’s share price rose about 1.5 percent in trading on Monday.

Although Shell said in its news release that it would “continue to be a significant employer with a major presence in the Netherlands,” the company’s management has been frustrated with the Dutch authorities in recent years, including over taxes. The government has been gradually shutting down the huge Groningen natural gas field, operated by a joint venture between Shell and Exxon Mobil, in the northern Netherlands because of earthquakes, and a Dutch court earlier this year ordered Shell to sharply reduce its worldwide emissions.

Shell is moving to meet some parts of the court ruling, but the company is appealing. A move away from the Netherlands “would make it harder to claim that the Dutch Court has jurisdiction,” analysts at Jefferies, an investment bank, wrote in a note to clients on Monday.

Source link