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TotalEnergies investors back CEO at AGM, weaker support for climate strategy

Published 25/05/2024, 02:45 am
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: TotalEnergries Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne speaks during a panel during Abu Dhabi International Progressive Energy Congress (ADIPEC), in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 2, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky/File Photo

By America Hernandez and Benjamin Mallet

PARIS (Reuters) -Shareholders in French oil and gas major TotalEnergies largely backed the company's strategy and its CEO on Friday, but support has weakened since last year as some investors called out its insufficient response to climate change.

The company's progress report on its sustainability and climate goals for 2030 was approved by 79.7% of shareholders compared to 88.8% of votes last year.

More than 75% of shareholders also voted for CEO and Chairman Patrick Pouyanne to continue another three-year mandate on the board, slightly lower than the 77.4% in 2021.

Some investors had said they would oppose his position to protest insufficient attention to climate concerns.

The board, meeting at the end of the AGM, reappointed Pouyanne as Chairman and CEO for the duration of his term on the board.

Greenpeace activists climbed a building near the company's western Paris headquarters early on Friday and unfurled a banner printed with a large photo of Pouyanne under a 'Wanted' heading.

Members of climate movement Extinction Rebellion also entered offices of TotalEnergies investor Amundi, which was also holding its AGM, damaging the building and injuring some security staff, according to the company and police. The company said they would file a complaint and added they will continue to be a major player in responsible investing.

Amundi "has the power to prevent destructive fossil fuel projects such as the climate bomb EACOP", said Extinction Rebellion on X, referring to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline that TotalEnergies is developing in Uganda and Tanzania.

Asset manager Amundi held around 9.5% of TotalEnergies' shares at the end of 2023, both in direct holdings and indirectly through managing the shares owned by TotalEnergies employees.

Activists and climate-focused investors have ramped up pressure on the world's leading oil and gas companies in recent years, frequently derailing shareholder meetings.

Earlier this week, climate activists also disrupted Shell (LON:RDSa)'s annual shareholder meeting in Britain, chanting "Shell Kills."

TotalEnergies had moved its AGM to its headquarters in the French capital's La Defense business district for the first time, after significant disruption in the usual city centre location last year.

More than 200 police were stationed around the building, according to Pouyanne, though strict security checks at the entrance caused long lines, prompting investor complaints during the meeting.

Others called out the company's continued exploration of oil and gas, with a member of the Fridays For Future youth climate action group describing the decision to construct the EACOP as a "murderous path".

"We are trying to find a balance between today's life and tomorrow's. It's not because TotalEnergies stops producing hydrocarbons that demand for them will disappear," Pouyanne responded.

Pouyanne is looking into listing the company in New York in addition to its current listing in Paris to seek a higher valuation for the company that has seen rising investment from U.S.-based funds.

European investors meanwhile are under pressure to divest from oil and gas companies.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: TotalEnergries Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne speaks during a panel during Abu Dhabi International Progressive Energy Congress (ADIPEC), in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 2, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky/File Photo

Plans to study such a move, first revealed last month, have caused a storm in Paris, with Pouyanne seeking to reassure on several occasions since then that the company would remain headquartered in France.

He has also clarified that he is considering a dual-listing, not a primary listing in the U.S.

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