With crude prices inching their way higher, I'm finding the Big Oil companies steadily more compelling. But Royal Dutch Shell
One of the reasons I haven't been high on the company for the past several years was the 2004 padding of reserves -- a stunt that cost it $350 million in fines -- a lot of money before the days of bailouts. But beyond that, Shell has never appeared as well run as European neighbors Total
Let's hope the redo works, since it apparently will affect all of the company. For starters, Peter Voser, Shell's CFO, will replace CEO Jeroen van der Veer on July 1, when the entire changeover will occur. Voser topped his two rivals, Linda Cook and Malcolm Brinded, for the position. Ms. Cook, who has been with the company for nearly 30 years and has headed its gas and power division for the past five years, will resign on Monday.
In the upstream, the three units -- exploration and production, gas and power, and oil sands -- will be reduced to Upstream Americas and Upstream International. Beyond that, a new business, Projects & Technology, is being hatched to coordinate a variety of technology activities that had previously been scattered throughout the company. The downstream unit -- which has included refining, marketing, and chemicals -- will now add trading and alternative energy, except for wind, which will become a part of upstream operations.
It also appears that, as with so many companies, there will be employee layoffs estimated at possibly 20% of Shell’s back-office staff. And as Voser noted in describing the changes, “the industry, and Shell, faces considerable challenges, from high costs, volatile energy prices, and competition for new projects.”
So should we be buying Shell on this news? My response is a fairly resounding "nein!" It could easily be a while before the wrinkles are ironed out of the new structure, which seems a mite experimental. Beyond that, I’d rather own ExxonMobil
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that needs no restructuring.