What's in a name? For Shell, it signals a gusher of changes
Oil company puts its origins in the Netherlands in the rearview mirror.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A). For an oil company, the name-association with palaces and princes brought a certain dignity that monikers such as Chevron (CVX), ExxonMobil (XOM) and British Petroleum (BP) do not.
We use the past tense because two of those three words are now history, with the world’s biggest non-state fossil fuel company having just dumped the “Royal Dutch” part following moves to end its dual share structure and move its head office from the Netherlands to London. And the change puts even further into the rearview mirror the 1907 merger of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and the Shell Transport and Trading Company, the latter based in the U.K., a move, according to author Fred Aftalion, that was brought about the need to compete with America’s Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil).
It’s also a casualty of climate change, with, as we reported, Shell having lost a case in a Dutch court in May in which judges ordered the company to speed up its reduction in carbon emissions. It was in the aftermath of the verdict that it was announced in December that it would be solely headquartered in the U.K. and its name shortened. As of this morning, the London stock exchange reflected the name change, and Amsterdam was scheduled to do so. The New York Stock Exchange will follow on Jan. 31, reports Reuters.
Though it is not as radical, the name shift follows adjustments at several other Big Oil brethren anxious to signal their transition from fossil fuel producers to renewables enterprises. Britain’s British Petroleum tried to bury its raw association with fossil fuels by going with BP, which it said meant it was moving “Beyond Petroleum.” Norway’s Statoil is now Equinor (EQNR). And France’s Total chose TotalEnergies (TTE) as its new label, with CEO Patrick Pouyanné declaring that the move signaled the firm’s transition to a “broad energy company.”
Could an American oil company be next?