City & Corporate: In the News ... BP and Shell

- Bring us up to speed

The world's financial markets might be falling apart, but someone forgot to tell the oil companies. Despite the global economic turmoil both BP and Shell (as well as US firm Exon Mobile) announced huge profits this week.Shell saw a 71 per cent leap in its third-quarter profits to £6.6bn between July and September and BP's profits climbed 148 per cent to £6.4bn.

- The reaction?

The enthusiasm (and relief) in the City was not universally shared. 'Obscene' seemed to be the adjective of choice across the full range of an angry press. The Daily Mirror called for a windfall tax on this 'profiteering', while the Daily Express demanded a 10p cut in the price of petrol. Politicians on both sides jumped in, with both Alistair Darling and George Osborne calling for profits to be passed on to customers as price cuts.

- Who are the PR players here?

Roddy Kennedy, head of press relations, leads BP's comms operations and Andrew Eddy heads up external comms in the UK for Shell. Releasing their results, the firms talked of long-term investment programmes and explained profits were down to oil hitting US$148 a barrel in the summer.

- What happens next?

The price of crude oil has now fallen 53 per cent from its July peak, but few appear willing to cut the oil companies any slack. There is pressure from politicians and media across the political spectrum and the oil companies may need to make some gesture of 'giving back' to the public. But longer term the messages they are pushing - alternative energy and that they are among the country's biggest taxpayers - do not appear to be resonating.

£50k - Shell's profit-per-minute over the last quarter.

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