Investors split over advice to let Browne stay

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BP shareholders are becoming increasingly divided over whether chief executive Lord Browne should be allowed to stay on beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60, in 18 months' time.

A Merrill Lynch report urged investors last week to recommend that BP change its position on Lord Browne's retirement. The Co-operative Insurance Society, a top-20 shareholder, will lobby BP to extend his tenure. Ian Jones, head of responsible investment, said: "We see no reason at the moment why he should step down as long as he continues to perform and he wishes to carry on." A top-five shareholder agreed that Lord Browne should stay.

But two institutional investors said he should go as planned in February 2008. "Every company needs new blood," said one.

Lord Browne has made no secret of his disdain for mandatory retirement. New legislation comes into force in October, banning age discrimination at work.