ExxonMobil shareholders to deliver verdict on oil major’s future

A proxy struggle on the power supermajor ExxonMobil is ready to succeed in a climax on Wednesday, when shareholders solid votes on firm management and technique that may also be a verdict on the way forward for the oil trade.

The balloting follows months of strain from Engine No 1, an upstart activist hedge fund that wishes the largest US oil producer to chop capital spending and discover a new plan it has mentioned would focus “on accelerating rather than deferring the energy transition” to cleaner energy.

The hedge fund launched its activist campaign in December, nominating 4 new people for election to the corporate’s board of administrators.

“This could be a landmark moment for the investment and oil industries alike,” mentioned Edward Mason, director of engagement at Generation Investment Management. “If Engine No 1 candidates are elected, responsible investment will truly have shown its muscle and the import of investor net zero commitments will be clear.”

The proxy battle has been costly, with Exxon saying it might spend no less than $35m on shareholder solicitations and Engine No 1 anticipating $30m. The firm has even contacted some small shareholders in a bid for help.

Crucial to the end result would be the votes of Exxon’s largest buyers: the fund managers Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street, which maintain greater than a fifth of the corporate’s shares altogether.

The pension techniques Calpers, Calstrs and the New York State Common Retirement Fund in addition to the European asset supervisor Legal & General Investment Management have mentioned they’ll vote for the Engine No 1 slate on Wednesday. America’s two largest proxy advisers this month endorsed among the hedge fund’s board nominees.

Engine No 1 itself holds a stake value simply $54m in a $247bn firm that lower than a decade in the past was the world’s largest by market capitalisation.

Years of heavy spending and mounting debts have disillusioned some Exxon shareholders, though the corporate preserved its dividend final yr regardless of dropping greater than $20bn because the pandemic and collapsing oil costs ravaged its enterprise.

Engine No 1 says Exxon’s deal with oil and gasoline exposes it to “existential” risk as opponents put together for a lower-carbon world.

Exxon has already appointed new administrators — and introduced extra to come back — lower deliberate spending, begun to report emissions from its merchandise and introduced new low-carbon ventures.

“This might be the most important shareholder vote in Exxon’s history,” mentioned Paul Sankey, oil analyst at Sankey Research.

Darren Woods, chief government, has dominated out a tough pivot to wash power and informed the Financial Times final week that Exxon would “address a lower-carbon future and the challenges associated with that” whereas additionally “providing the products that society needs”.

Twice weekly e-newsletter

Energy is the world’s indispensable enterprise and Energy Source is its e-newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you important information, forward-thinking evaluation and insider intelligence. Sign up here.