Malaysia

Petronas CEO ready to quit any time

Shamsul was determined to revamp the way Petronas conducts business to instil discipline and control. ― Reuters picShamsul was determined to revamp the way Petronas conducts business to instil discipline and control. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 ― Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abas has hinted that he may not stay long at Petronas under its new succession policy after pushing through reforms to distance itself as the country’s piggy bank in the last two years he has been its CEO.

“I’ve identified my successor and I’m ready to leave any time. Even tomorrow.

“I don’t believe in self-preservation,” Shamsul told Financial Times (FT) in an interview published today.

Petronas’ chief executive and board serve at the pleasure of the prime minister who have over the years tapped into the state oil firm’s funds to build their dream projects and bail out their mistakes.

The man who succeeded the state oil company’s long time chief executive Tan Sri Hassan Merican in 2010 has been determined to shake off its government links and revamp the way it conducts business to instil discipline and control over how its funds are spent and to justify its Fortune 500 tag in order to pursue its commercial interests, the international business daily reported.

Petronas has also been straining for independence against its government ownership by negotiating a cut in an annual subsidy it pays to state coffers that fund some 40 per cent of the national Budget and help offset rising exploration costs abroad as production dwindles at home, FT report.

“It’s no longer a one-man show,” Shamsul told FT.

The paper highlighted that Shamsul has been determined to overhaul Petronas’ image as a government-owned business as he tries to rescue its C$5.3 billion (RM16 billion) purchase of power giant Progress Energy Resources, which has been snubbed by the Canadian government as having no “net benefit” to the north American country.

The paper noted Petronas has been working to redress the imbalance of seeing 42 per cent of its overseas income making up only 10 per cent of its earnings.

The CEO told the paper he could not have carried out the reforms “without the support of the prime minister” Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

But it noted that Shamsul, who has been at Petronas for 37 years since 1975, is also a product of the system he critises.

He appears to understand that his time there may be up soon and has prepared for it.

Shamsul’s predecessor Hassan was believed to have left Petronas due to clashes with Najib back in late 2009 over the appointment of a former senior aide as a Petronas director despite the prime minister having absolute powers in board appointments.

Hassan was widely credited with turning Petronas into the only other state-run major international player in the oil and gas space apart from Norway’s Statoil.

Since then, he had been appointed to the board of several foreign firms, including as director of Sinagapore’s Sembcorp Industries.

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