Shell chief exec to retire as firm posts profit rise

 
Suzie Neuwirth
ROYAL Dutch Shell yesterday announced the surprise resignation of chief executive Peter Voser, alongside $7.5bn (£4.8bn) in first quarter profits, which beat analysts’ forecasts.

The FTSE 100-listed oil giant said that Voser, who has led the firm since July 2009, would retire in the first half of 2014.

In a note to his staff, Voser said that he felt it was time for a lifestyle change but that he will remain “engaged in the business community through a limited number of non-executive roles outside Shell.”

Shell refused to comment on a timeframe or possible candidate to replace Voser, but chairman Jorma Ollila said yesterday that the nomination and succession committee of the board will lead “a structured and comprehensive review of internal and external candidates”.

The oil explorer also announced a three per cent rise in first quarter profits and a dividend of $0.45 per share, up from $0.02 for the same period last year.

“Voser’s departure was an odd move. The key thing for Shell now is continuity,” said Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG Markets.

“However, Shell is in a long-term programme so I don’t think it should impact the company drastically.”

Ronnie Chopra, head of strategy at Tradenext, suggested that Voser may bid for rival oil giant BP.

“Voser has gone on record as saying that his company considered a move on BP,” he said. “With Voser scheduled to depart in early 2014 he may still want to bid for BP and obviously it would be a coup for him and Shell if he was successful.”

PROFILE: PETER VOSER

ANALYSTS yesterday describe Peter Voser’s resignation from Shell, after holding the chief executive role for a little under four years, as “a slight shock but no great surprise”. “I thought he’d do another year,” said Malcolm Graham-Wood, analyst at VSA Capital, echoing the view of many in the industry, who thought 54-year-old Voser would stay at the helm of the oil giant for a little longer. Swiss citizen Voser, who said he felt it was time for a lifestyle change and wanted to spend more time with his family, is a Shell lifer. After studying for a Business Administration degree at Zurich University of Applied Sciences he joined Shell in 1982, and climbed through the ranks to hold the roles of chief financial officer and an executive director prior to becoming chief executive. He still remains non-executive director on a number of boards and is active in non-profit organisations, including Catalyst, which helps to expand opportunities for women in business. In July 2011, the Sultan of Brunei awarded him the title of Dato Seri Laila Jasa in recognition of his services to the state of Brunei. Despite Voser’s insistence he is planning nothing more than a retirement spent with his family, his name is already being touted as a possible chairman of Roche Holding, the Swiss drug firm at which he is already a non-executive director.