WHEN the time comes for a director to move on, most companies use the platitude of “pursuing other interests” to explain their departure, so it was refreshingly honest to hear that Shell boss Peter Voser has decided, at the ripe old age of 54, that he will retire next year to spend more time with his family.
The timing of the announcement took many by surprise, as the Swiss national has been at the helm of Europe’s largest oil company for less than four years and by all accounts has been steering the ship with aplomb, delivering first-quarters of $7.5 billion (£4.8bn) yesterday, well ahead of the $6.5bn pencilled in by analysts.
Shell’s forecast-beating profits came hot on the heels of those from BP, which is using some of the proceeds from the sale of its stake in the TNK-BP joint venture to give $8bn back to shareholders through a share buy-back programme. Shell has bought back $1.2bn of shares so far this year and is poised to be the country’s top dividend payer this year, contributing £1 in every £11 of income paid to investors in UK companies, according to research by Capita Registrars.
The dividends paid out from these oil giants can make a real difference to pensioners’ incomes, as the vast majority of pension funds hold shares in BP and Shell, given that many simply track the UK’s largest companies.
Figures from the Department of Work & Pensions show the average pensioner income across the UK is about £369 a week, or £19,188 a year. According to a recent TUC study, Voser has accrued an annual pension worth £849,000, which no doubt made his decision to call it a day that little bit easier.
Facebook needs to stay mobile to avoid fatigue
Retirement is probably the last thing on Mark Zuckerberg’s mind just now, given that the 28-year-old Facebook co-founder seems to be finally getting to grips with the problem of mobile advertising, an issue that had some investors fretting before last year’s $104bn (£65bn) flotation.
The social network said almost a third of its total advertising revenues came via smartphones and tablet computers during the first quarter, helping it surpass Wall Street’s expectations with a 38 per cent jump in overall revenues to $1.46bn.
Facebook said the number of people who access its service every day, on average, grew 8 per cent to 665 million in March, up from 618 million in December. However, analysis firm SocialBakers reported this week that some 1.4 million UK users had abandoned the site last month, and talk of “Facebook fatigue” has caused nervous chatter among some investors, keen to avoid a repeat of other social media fads such as Bebo or MySpace.
With smartphone usage showing no signs of slowing down, Facebook recently announced the launch of an application that effectively takes over the user’s handset, putting its chat service front and centre. It is also trying to work out how to make money from Instagram, the photo-sharing service bought for $715m last year.
But one of the biggest challenges for Zuckerberg will be keeping his billion-strong customer base engaged by delivering the content they want without making them feel bombarded with intrusive advertising.
Micro-blogging site Twitter, which has more than 550 million registered users, celebrated its seventh birthday in March and appears to be gaining ground on its older rival, especially among teenagers in the US, so the pressure is on Facebook.