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Oil firms awash with cash

High prices and margins gifted oil and gas companies a spectacular 2004, earning more than they could comfortably spend. But not everyone was applauding, reports Cris Heaton

The latest round of record results had journalists scurrying to their thesauruses for previously unused superlatives. But not all of them were flattering, as perception outside the industry that oil companies were simply profiteering from high oil and gas prices led to calls for tougher taxation and encouraged governments to think about renegotiating contracts. Many of the headlines were made by Royal Dutch Shell, which, despite its annus horribilis in 2004, posted the largest profit in UK corporate history – although the previous record-holder, banking behemoth HSBC, is expected to snatch the title back when it reports. However, as has been the case throughout the year, the figures were at

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