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Financial Times: Shell appoints ABB executive as new CFO

Financial Times: Shell appoints ABB executive as new CFO

By Josephine Cumbo and Haig Simonian in Zurich

Published: June 24 2004 7:45 | Last Updated: June 24 2004 10:02

Royal Dutch/Shell, the energy giant, has ended its search for a new chief financial officer with the appointment of Peter Voser, the executive widely credited with turning round Swiss engineering group ABB, to the role.

Mr Voser, 46, will join the Anglo-Dutch group in October after a two-year career as chief financial officer with ABB.

Prior to his appointment with the engineering group, Mr Voser spent 20 years with Shell holding a number of global finance positions, the last being CFO of the global oil products division.

From 1997-99, Mr Voser was also group chief financial auditor.

On Thursday, Shell said that there was a clear segregation between Mr Voser’s duties as group auditor and that of the reserves audit role in Exploration and Production, the division where the controversy over misbooked reserves was sparked.

The appointment of the Swiss national brings to an end a two-month search for Shell, prompted after the resignation of Judy Boynton in April.

Ms Boynton was the third executive board member to be forced out as a result of reserves restatement crisis.

Shell said about 20 external and internal candidates were considered for the CFO’s role, but that Mr Voser’s experience at ABB gave him an edge.

“We concluded that given Mr Voser’s success at ABB, he offered the best of both worlds, given his external experience and knowledge of Shell,” Shell said on Thursday. “He can hit the ground running.”

ABB expressed regret at Mr Voser’s decision, but praised his contribution. Mr Voser was highly regarded in the markets, and widely credited with being instrumental with the group’s recent financial turnround.

When he joined in 2002, ABB was facing financial crisis and had lost credibility in the eyes of investors and analysts.

Together with Jürgen Dormann, chairman and outgoing chief executive, Mr Voser worked to restore stability, reassure investors and gradually put ABB’s finances back on an even keel.

According to analysts, the group should regain investment grade status on its debts by the end of this year.

Speculation about Mr Voser’s future peaked earlier this year when ABB went outside its ranks to choose a successor for Mr Dormann as chief executive.

Although never publicly declared to be a candidate, many analysts believe Mr Voser may have been disappointed at being passed over for the top job, which went to the lesser known and relatively inexperienced Fred Kindle, head of the Sulzer engineering group.

However, in an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Mr Dormann dismissed speculation that Mr Voser may have been disappointed over the analysts’ speculation.

“It makes no sense to draw that conclusion,” he said, adding that Mr Voser’s interest was always on the financial side.

Mr Dormann said the search had begun for a replacement for Mr Voser and they were looking for a “heavy hitter”.

Shells shares were 5p higher at 413-3/4p in early trade in London. Royal Dutch shares were 1.3 per cent higher at €43.7 in Amsterdam. ABB’s stock was trading down 0.9 per cent at SKr42.1

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