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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Shell 'could be target for Total'
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Shell has struggled to rebuild confidence after the reserves crisis
Oil giant Shell could be bracing itself for a takeover attempt, possibly from French rival Total, a report claims.

Bosses at the Anglo-Dutch group are said to have admitted that the company is vulnerable to a predator, according to the Observer newspaper.

Total would be an obvious contender because it is believed to be the only firm capable of getting any merger proposal past the regulators.

Shell has been vulnerable since it downgraded its reserves estimates.

Reserves crisis

The company shocked the market in January by announcing that its oil and gas stocks were 20% lower than previously thought.

But that was not the end of the matter - it subsequently downgraded its reserves another three times.

The crisis forced the resignations of three top executives, including chairman Sir Philip Watts and the head of exploration and production Walter van de Vijver.

The company agreed to pay more than 80m in penalties to settle inquiries by US and UK regulators into the firm's restatement of reserves.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Shell said the company would not comment on the latest takeover speculation.

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