The intriguing story  that ExxonMobil has Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) in its sights will send shivers down the spines of Shell’s senior executives as they plan their strategy for 2009 and beyond. It may also give much food for though to those in the European Union who want to keep European hands on key energy resources in the light of Russia’s open flexing of its muscles on Gas and in the Siberian upstream.As the informed article points out there would be few financing problems for ExxonMobil who could comfortably afford to pay a 60% premium to acquire Shell at its current traded stock value. And there could hardly be any financial analysts who would advise clients to turn down such an offer in these straightened times. The Pension Funds and other institutional investors would surely jump at the chnace for a swift return on their hitherto rather depressed RDS holdings.

But the mandarins in Europe will see it in another way. Shell is one of Europe’s biggest corporations and is a keen player across the continent. It is also blessed with some important strategic reserves in its historic producing areas, such as Nigeria, Oman, Brunei and North America. For these assets to be subsumed into ExxonMobil would be a blow not just to European prestige but to security of energy supply.

Given the likely horror in London and The Hague and the equal dismay in Brussels we can expect some swift defensive manoeuvres to be soon under discussion. Prime amongst these has to be the oft trumpeted merger of Shell and BP into one seriously big and European managed corporation. There might even be a part for Total in the scheme – a Shell/BP/Total company would outstrip even ExxonMobil in its strength and influence.

What looks to be certain is that the status quo will not prevail. Shell is not only vulnerable to ExxonMobil put also potentially to predators from the oil producing States – especially Russia and in the Middle East. If Exxon can afford Shell you can be sure that, for example, Gazprom or the Abu Dhabi sheiks could as well! It could be a baptism of fire for Shell’s new CEO Peter Voser!

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