With the collapse of Enron and the disintegration of the audit firm Andersen, not to mention the myriad of other US accounting scandals, corporates are struggling to find a sympathetic ear within the investor community.
Shareholders and stakeholders, shaken by last year’s US corporate scandals, remain cautious in their investments.
But many companies are still proving their worth by going beyond their mandatory requirements.
In particular, British Petroleum has come out shining. UK chief executives this week named BP, the energy giant, as the UK’s most respected company, according to new research.
Globally, it was awarded 20th place by the world’s leading CEOs.
And as if that wasn’t enough, media and NGOs respondending to the survey – conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and now in its fifth year – ranked BP third in the world for management of environmental resources, behind only Ford and Microsoft.
BP’s chief executive Lord John Browne was voted 16th most respected business leader by his peers in the global survey.
‘The world’s leading companies tend to share certain characteristics: inevitably, they are likely to be global players with distinctive brands, exhibit strong leadership both internally and in their marketplace, and a long-term track record of growth, financial performance and delivering shareholder value,’ said Kieran Poynter, PwC UK senior partner.
‘These attributes closely reflect the clusters of characteristics that our CEO respondents say drive their selections.
‘But the best companies do more than exhibit their qualities. They also worry about governance and integrity – and are recognised by their peers as being leaders in these areas.’
By sector, BP finished second only to DuPont in the world’s most respected energy/chemicals companies. And all this has come as BP has faced its own, more local, challenges.
As well as the departure of deputy chief executive Rodney Chase – who will retire from the company on 23 April – Lord Browne has overseen a large shake-up in the company.
BP last week closed an important chapter in its corporate history with the sale of the Forties field, as part of a $1.3bn (#830m) deal with Apache, the US independent. The sale followed last October’s announcement by Lord Browne of a review of BP’s assets after it was forced to cut production forecasts.
Chase will step down as deputy chief executive with immediate effect but until his retirement, will remain on the board as senior adviser to Lord Browne.
PwC’s closing word for companies aspiring to the now annual survey was to ‘abandon the “earnings game” of massaged expectation, whispered numbers and a fixation on earnings’.
To this the firm adds: ‘This means starting from an assumption of transparency both for financial and non-financial information, and giving external investors and other stakeholders the raw material they need to make an informed decision.
It now remains for BP to retain its position in the UK and move up the ladder globally. And for other UK companies to follow its example.
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