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Voser returns to Shell to do the impossible

Financial Times: Voser returns to Shell to do the impossible

By Haig Simonian

Jun 25, 2004

Peter Voser seems such an obvious choice as Shell’s new chief financial officer it was surprising that no one had mentioned him earlier.

Mr Voser, a 45 year old Swiss citizen, spent virtually all his career at the Anglo/ Dutch oil group before breaking off in 2002 to join ABB, the Swiss/Swedish engineering company.

In two-and-a-half years at ABB, Mr Voser – who studied business administration at Zurich’s University of Applied Sciences – has earned a glittering reputation as a finance chief. He was instrumental in restoring ABB’s credibility among bankers, analysts and investors.

“Peter has made vital contributions as a key member of the team that in the past two years has secured the turnround of ABB,” said Jürgen Dormann, ABB’s chairman and chief executive.

Shell hardly faces the same depth of problems as ABB in 2002: the engineering company had massive debts, US asbestos liabilities and a shattered reputation. But Mr Voser’s negotiating skills, straight talking and professionalism could be just what the oil group needs to regain its former lustre.

“One of his immense qualities is that he just gets things done. He sets targets and meets them, short term and medium term,” said Simon Marshall-Lockyer, analyst at Chevreux in Zurich. “He clearly relishes the challenge of doing the impossible.”

Although no longer an insider, Mr Voser also knows Shell like few others. After joining Shell Switzerland as an internal auditor in his early 20s, he had an international career with the group, including five years in Argentina and two in Chile, as well as stints in London. By the time of his departure in early 2002, Mr Voser was chief financial officer for Shell’s London-based oil products division. Any impression of a dry finance man would be mistaken. A football fanatic and fluent Spanish speaker, he keenly followed the Argentine league while based in Buenos Aires. In recent days, he has been found in Portugal, following Euro 2004. And In his youth, Mr Voser even played professional football as a defender for FC Wettingen, a local second division club. Appropriately, the team was based near Baden, the town west of Zurich where Brown Boveri – the Swiss half of ABB – was then located: and where Mr Voser’s father worked for 35 years as a physicist for the company.

Haig Simonian

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd

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