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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 March, 2004, 15:49 GMT
Shell denies auditor delay claim
Shell petrol station
Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has denied reports it delayed its annual report because auditors refused to sign off on its accounts.

A Sunday Times report said KPMG would not approve the accounts due to the quality of information it had received.

A Shell spokesman said the accounts were not given to the auditors because of a delay with the reserves data.

He added the board opted not to publish the accounts while it awaited "greater clarity" on the reserves situation.

On Thursday the firm rocked the City with news it was downgrading its reserves for a second time this year.

Shell cut 250 million barrels from 2002 reserves, and a further 220 million from the figure for 2003.

As a result, the Anglo-Dutch company said it was delaying its annual results until June while an examination of its global energy fields took place.

Heads roll

The Sunday Times article also said KPMG was also concerned over about potential liability to a US Securities and Exchange Committee probe into Shell's oil reserves.

KPMG audits the group's accounts jointly with PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Shell's crisis began in January, when it shocked investors by warning that - according to tightened US market rules - it had over-stated its reserves by 3.9 billion barrels or 20%.

That news knocked more than $15bn off its stock market valuation, and meant the group's available oil and gas reserves had shrunk from 13 years' worth to less than 11.

It also prompted the resignation of chief executive Sir Philip Watts and Walter van de Vijver, chief executive of Shell's exploration and production business.

The oil giant is now facing a number of class action lawsuits in the US.

It is also being investigated by Dutch regulators over potential insider training allegations, and the UK's Financial Services Authority has requested information regarding the circumstances of the reserves downgrade.

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