China Said to Name Cnooc’s CEO Li Fanrong as Deputy Energy Chief

  • Li joined Cnooc in 1984, became chief executive in 2011
  • Cnooc bought Canada’s Nexen for $15 billion under Li

Cnooc Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Li Fanrong was appointed as deputy head of China’s National Energy Administration, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Li, CEO of the country’s biggest offshore oil and gas producer since 2011, will leave the offshore explorer to take the NEA position, said the people, declining to be identified as the information hasn’t been made public.

Li led the company’s purchase in 2012 of Canada’s Nexen for $15 billion, the country’s biggest overseas acquisition at the time, when oil averaged more than $110 a barrel. He also navigated the company through crude’s slump by slashing operating costs, while guiding the company’s output higher to become China’s second-biggest producer as of last year.

“Cnooc has delivered impressive organic growth offshore China and established itself as arguably the best-run national oil company globally,” said Neil Beveridge, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “Li has had to deal with a challenging oil price environment and will be remembered partly because of the ill-timed Nexen acquisition.”

Li, 52, worked as a petroleum engineer and offshore-platform supervisor after joining the explorer in 1984, according to his biography on Cnooc’s website. The executive, who holds a masters in business administration degree from Cardiff University in the U.K., was assistant president at Cnooc’s parent from January 2009 to April 2010. He was appointed CEO in November 2011.

Li Fanrong and Li Yangzhe were appointed deputy ministers at the National Energy Administration, China’s State Council said in a statement on its website Tuesday, without giving any biographical or career detail about the two appointees. Beijing-based Cnooc declined to confirm Li’s appointment and said it would file a stock exchange update.

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