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Financial Times: Who’s who: Ten top powers to be reckoned with

By Ed Crooks
Published: November 9 2007 04:36 | Last updated: November 9 2007 04:36

Abdallah Jum’ah
President and chief executive officer, Saudi Aramco

If there is one man on whom the future of global prosperity rests, it is Abdallah Jum’ah. As chief executive of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, he is responsible for delivering the planned increase in the country’s oil production that consuming countries hope will make the most important contribution to meeting their growing needs. Saudi Aramco has embarked on the biggest capital investment programme in its history, and is working on projects that are supposed to add an extra 3m barrels a day of potential output, taking its total capacity to 12m b/d. If it fails, the world is likely to run short of oil. Born in 1941, Mr Jum’ah has spent his entire career at Saudi Aramco since graduating from the American University in Beirut in 1968. He took over from Ali Naimi, who was made minister of petroleum and mineral resources in 1995, having been the head of Aramco’s international operations. As chief executive, he is credited with having led the company’s successful expansion into refining, and the rapid growth of its gas business.

Victor Khristenko
Industry and energy minister, Russia

Victor Khristenko has led Russia’s energy policy when the country, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, has pursued a strategy of taking control of strategic energy projects. Government pressure helped secure controlling stakes for Gazprom, the state-controlled gas company, in Royal Dutch Shell’s Sakhalin 2, which was operated on an agreement signed under Boris Yeltsin, Mr Putin’s predecessor, and in the Kovykta gas field, which was controlled by BP’s 50 per cent joint venture TNK-BP thanks to a deal done in the early years of Mr Putin’s presidency. Now observers detect a more conciliatory approach from Mr Khristenko and the rest of Mr Putin’s administration, as evidenced by the offers to let Total of France and StatoilHydro share in Gazprom’s vast Shtokman project. Nevertheless, he is still outspoken in support of Russian interests, recently criticising the European Union for its plans to restrict Russian ownership of energy assets in the EU. Born in 1957, he was an academic before moving into local politics in 1991 and national politics in 1997. He is spoken of as a future chairman or chief executive of Gazprom, where he has been on the board since 2002.

Rex Tillerson
Chairman and chief executive officer, ExxonMobil

Rex Tillerson has marked a change from his predecessor Lee Raymond, who he succeeded at the beginning of 2006, in toning down the company’s rhetoric on climate change. Mr Raymond was aggressively sceptical; Mr Tillerson has acknowledged the risks, placed great stress on listening to scientific opinion, and said this year: “The risks to society and ecosystems from climate change could prove to be significant … It is prudent to develop and implement sensible strategies that address these risks while not reducing our ability to progress other global priorities, such as economic development, poverty eradication and public health.” In every other respect, however, he has stuck closely to Mr Raymond’s blueprint: combining an unwavering focus on engineering excellence with a no-nonsense management style. Competitors universally admire Exxon’s operational performance, but some query whether today’s more self-confident countries with oil and gas reserves will want to do business with a company that has a reputation for being unwilling to compromise. Born in 1952, he is an engineer by training who has worked for Exxon since 1975.

Jiang Jiemin
Chairman, PetroChina

PetroChina, China’s biggest oil and gas company, hit the headlines this month when its notional market capitalisation, as judged by the value of the A shares just floated on the Shanghai stock exchange, broke through $1,000bn, making the company twice as valuable as Exxon. That valuation is misleading, being based on a very small float, but the headline did a great job of introducing the world to PetroChina and Jiang Jiemin, its chairman since May of this year. Mr Jiang, born in 1954, is an economist by training who has worked for 30 years in China’s oil and gas industry. He worked on the creation in 1999 of PetroChina as a separate listed company linked to China National Petroleum Corporation, the state-owned oil company, and became precident and vice-chairman of PetroChina in 2004. He remains president and general manager of CNPC: a dual role that has attracted fierce criticism from campaigners against China’s investment in Sudan. The business there is conducted by CNPC, rather than PetroChina, but campaigners argue that the overlapping management, and CNPC’s holding of 88 per cent of PetroChina’s shares, mean that the distinction is irrelevant.

Tony Hayward
Chief executive, BP

Tony Hayward, 50, took over from Lord Browne as the chief executive of BP on May 1 in chaotic circumstances. It had already been agreed that Lord Browne would step down at the end of July after a series of problems in the US – particularly the 2005 explosion at the Texas City refinery, which killed 15 people – had tarnished the reputation that had made him Britain’s most admired business leader. But Lord Browne was forced to accelerate his departure when it emerged that he had lied to a judge when trying to keep quiet allegations about his private life. Mr Hayward seems to symbolise a change from the Browne era. Where Lord Browne was thoughtful and dignified, Mr Hayward is relaxed and approachable. Without ever criticising Lord Browne directly – something that would be hard to do, given that he held one of the company’s top jobs as head of exploration and production in Lord Browne’s latter years – he has firmly distanced himself from his predecessor. In October he launched plans to create a leaner, more effective management structure at BP, to improve operational performance and cut overhead costs. The plan was enthusiastically received by the markets, which lifted BP’s shares to recover some of the lamentable under- performance relative to its peers in recent years. But Mr Hayward needs to show that he can deliver his plans, and they will get the result he promised. He said he wanted to be judged after two years; if performance has not begun to improve by then, his position will begin to look uncomfortable.

Wulf Bernotat
Chief executive, Eon
Wulf Bernotat had a depressing few months this year. Having been close enough to touch his hoped-for large European acquisition, in the shape of the €42bn bid for Endesa of Spain, he found it snatched away from him. With the support of the Spanish government, Enel of Italy swooped, quickly building a blocking stake and winning the support of other shareholders. Eventually Mr Bernotat was forced to walk away, with only the consolation prize of Enel and Endesa assets valued at €10bn. For a time it looked as though his job might be in danger, especially given his previous failure to win Scottish Power after talks in 2005. He bounced back fast, however, setting out a plan in May to invest €60bn by 2010, including some acquisitions, to raise earnings sharply, take on more debt and buy back €7bn worth of shares by next year. Since then, he has announced deals to buy a €4.1bn stake in OGK-4, a Russian power company, to take Eon’s holding to 70 per cent, and $1.4bn to buy the US wind power assets of Airtricity of Ireland. Born in 1948, he trained as a lawyer and spent much of his career at Shell, working in Germany, the UK, France and Portugal, which has given him a more pan-European outlook than a traditional German utility boss. In 1996 he joined Veba, the German energy group, which merged with Viag to form Eon in 2000, and became chief executive in 2003. Most recently, he has been acquiring a reputation for blunt speaking, warning that the proposed merger of Gaz de France and Suez amounted to “renationalisation of the power industry”.

Christophe de Margerie
Chief executive, Total

Christophe de Margerie has had a year that has hit the heights and plumbed the depths. Taking over from Thierry Desmarest in February, in March he was detained by police and questioned over allegations of corruption in Iran in 1997, which followed questioning the previous October over the oil-for-food programme with Iraq. Total and Mr de Margerie deny wrongdoing in all cases and no charges have been made, but the investigation could drag on for years. On the positive side, Mr de Margerie, known as “the big moustache”, secured what looks like the deal of the year, getting approval from Gazprom to take a 25 per cent stake in the project to develop the Shtokman field off Russia’s north coast: the world’s second biggest gas field. By November, he was even able to joke about the investigation, telling a conference that he would once have been locked up for being an oil boss urging restraint on consumption, “and for a reason, this time”. Born in 1951, he has a financial background, joining Total’s finance department in 1974 after studying at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Paris, the world’s oldest business school. In 1995 he became managing director of Total’s operations in the Middle East, and is credited with creating the company’s strong presence there: it is the second biggest foreign oil company in the region. At the start of 2002 he took over as president of TotalFinaElf, renamed simply Total in 2003.

Jose Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo
President and chief executive officer, Petrobras
At $25bn, Petrobras’ investment programme is bigger than that of any other company, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Jose Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo, the chief executive, is leading an extremely ambitious expansion programme to build on the growth that has taken Brazilian oil production from 800,000 barrels a day to 1.8m b/d in the past decade. Petrobras is still focused on domestic production, but is one of the national oil companies with the most ambitious international plans, including the deployment of its deep-water techniques in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr Gabrielli is an academic economist by background who has written books on subjects such as regional development, and he retains a professorial manner. He is formally still on leave from the Federal University of Bahia. In 2003 he became financial director of Petrobras, and was promoted to president in 2005.

Abdullah Al-Attiyah
Energy minister and deputy prime minister, Qatar

Abdullah Al-Attiyah, or “Triple A”, as he is apparently known to his friends in the industry, has been Qatar’s oil minister for 18 years, during which time the country has come from almost nowhere to become an important energy power. Its oil production has more than doubled in the past decade to 1.1m barrels a day, while its gas production has tripled to about 50bn cu m last year. Mr Al-Attiyah has been a particularly active advocate of the growth of Qatar’s liquefied natural gas industry, signing deals such as the Qatargas 2 joint venture with ExxonMobil. By 2012, he has said, he expects Qatar to be the world’s biggest exporter of LNG, with 30 per cent of the global market. Born in 1952, he was educated at Alexandria University, and has spent all his career in the Qatari government, starting as a junior official in the oil ministry.

Chen Biting
Chairman, Shenhua

Before PetroChina, the year’s biggest excitement for new arrivals on the Shanghai stock market was the listing of Shenhua Energy, a subsidiary of Shenhua, the country’s biggest coal producer. Mr Chen believes the leap in the company’s shares was more than justified by the strength of its business. “The price is within expectations but I’m still not satisfied,” he said. Coal is China’s most important fossil fuel, providing 90 per cent of its electricity generation and 60 per cent of its primary energy. China has one of the world’s biggest coal reserves, making it a much more reliable fuel for the long term than oil or gas. Shenhua is diversifying aggressively from its base in mining and logistics into converting coal into chemicals and liquid fuels. After graduating from the University of Science and Technology of China, he joined Shenhua in 2000 after a career in provincial government and economic planning. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mr Chen said Chinese banks were keen to lend the company money to finance expansion, and it was looking at acquisitions in Indonesia and Australia.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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