Shell could leave UK due to 'windfall' taxes on huge profits, suggests CEO


The CEO of British-based oil giant Shell has appeared to suggest that the firm has considered leaving the UK to make even more money - because of taxes introduced after energy giants posted record profits.

Wael Sawan also warned that energy prices and bills could soar again if there is a double-whammy of increased demand from China and a cold winter in Europe.

And he said that swapping fossil fuels for renewable alternatives too quickly would be "dangerous and irresponsible". Sawan told the BBC that the world still "desperately needs oil and gas".

In an interview with the BBC's Business Editor Simon, Sawan took aim at the UK Government and the UN. He appeared to suggest the British-based company has considered moving its headquarters to the US to increase its already huge profits.

Last year, Shell made one of the largest profits in UK corporate history, at £32bn. However, Sawan said there was a lack of clarity and stability in the UK over energy policy and taxation.

The UK has introduced a profits windfall tax and Sawan said policies such as these have made the UK a less attractive place to invest.

And he refused to rule-out Shell moving its headquarters and stock market listing to the United States. Shares in American oil companies are generally worth more than UK-based firms.

Pointing out that Exxon Mobil is worth 40% more than Shell per dollar of profit, Sawan said: "There are many who question whether that valuation gap can only be bridged if we move to the US."

However, he also said that: "A move of headquarters is not a priority for the next three years." But he added: "I would never rule out anything that could potentially create the right circumstances for the company and its shareholders. Ultimately, I am in the service of shareholder value."

Sawan also "respectfully" disagreed when told that UN Secretary General António Guterres believes it would be "economic and moral madness to continue to look for new oil and gas."

In response, Sawan told the BBC: "What would be dangerous and irresponsible is cutting oil and gas production so that the cost of living, as we saw last year, starts to shoot up again."

He also pointed out that it is often developing countries, and the world's most impoverished people, that suffer the most. Sawan said poorer countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh unable to afford Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) shipments last year, due to an international bidding war that saw shipments diverted to Northern Europe.

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