May 2 (Bloomberg) -- Simon Henry is the frontrunner among analysts to become the next chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc after Peter Voser unexpectedly announced his resignation next year from Europe’s biggest oil company.
Henry, Shell’s chief financial officer, was tipped as a candidate by Macquarie Capital Europe and RBC Capital Markets to succeed Voser. Marvin Odum, Shell’s U.S. chief, and Andy Brown, head of upstream, may also be contenders.
Voser, 54, will leave the company in the first half of 2014 after five years. Since he took over in July 2009, Shell’s shares in London have risen 46 percent, outperforming most of their peers, as Voser cut costs, sold assets and reversed a seven-year decline in output. He also oversaw the company’s biggest ever investment, a gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar.
“Voser has done quite an admirable job,” said Macquarie’s Jason Gammel. “Shell has a deep bench of high-quality people. It’s normally the kind of company that would promote from within.”
Henry, 51, told journalists today that Shell’s nomination committee will look at both internal and external candidates for a replacement. He declined to comment on whether his name would be considered.
A Cambridge University graduate and British citizen, Henry succeeded Voser as CFO in 2009 after serving as an executive vice-president for finance of the exploration and production division. He started as an engineer in the Stanlow refinery in the U.K. and was in charge of finance for units in Egypt and Asia before becoming head of investor relations in 2001.
The nomination and succession committee is led by Jorma Ollila, the former CEO of mobile phone maker Nokia Oyj who is also the chairman of Shell’s board. Former Deutsche Bank AG CEO Josef Ackermann and Hans Wijers, previously CEO of Europe’s biggest paintmaker Akzo Nobel NV, are also on the committee.
Voser, a Swiss national who started working for Shell in 1982 and was CFO for five years before taking over the top job, said he’s retiring for personal reasons. He is “essentially looking for a lifestyle change,” Henry said. Voser didn’t join the conference call to discuss first quarter earnings, which unexpectedly rose.
Under Voser, Shell outperformed most of its rivals among the world’s biggest five oil companies. The 46 percent gain in the share price compares with a 25 percent increase for Exxon Mobil Corp. and declines for European peers BP Plc and Total SA. Only Chevron Corp. has done better, gaining 82 percent since July 1, 2009, the day Voser started.
When he took over from Jeroen van der Veer, who retired at 61, the company was still recovering from a scandal where it had overstated its reserves, leading to lawsuits from investors and regulators.
Profitable investments such as the $19 billion Pearl gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar have bolstered returns at Shell. The company raised its dividend for the first time since 2009 last year and raised it again for the first quarter. It plans to raise volumes to about 4 million barrels of oil equivalent a day as early as 2017.
“Voser has been very good at providing processes for the company,” said RBC’s Peter Hutton. “I’m sure the succession process will be equally well-organized.”
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