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Voser surprise choice as Shell chief

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By Ed Crooks in London

Published: October 29 2008 17:27 | Last updated: October 29 2008 21:33

Peter Voser, finance chief of Royal Dutch Shell, is the unexpected choice to lead Europe’s biggest oil company through what is set to be a turbulent period for the industry.

He will replace Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive since 2004, who steps down next June.

Mr Voser had been widely seen by investors as the best candidate for the job, but was said to have ruled himself out amid expectations that he would take a job in his native Switzerland, possibly a senior role at UBS.

His family lives in Switzerland while Shell’s head office is in the Hague, in the Netherlands.

Mr Voser spent most of his career at Shell but left in 2002 to join ABB, the engineering group, where he was instrumental in turning the company round. He rejoined Shell as finance chief in 2004, after the scandal over the company’s mis-reporting of its reserves. He has been a member of the executive team since then and has been responsible for much of the presentation of the company’s strategy and performance.

Fred Lucas of Cazenove described Mr Voser’s appointment as “a welcome unexpected positive” in a note, adding that it “helpfully removes one of our concerns on the shares: succession risk”.

Jason Kenney of ING described Mr Voser as a “safe pair of hands”.

Other contenders were Malcolm Brinded, head of exploration and production, and Linda Cook, the head of gas and power.

Encouragement from inside and outside the company persuaded Mr Voser to abandon the idea of returning to Switzerland, which he had considered, and to put himself forward to replace Mr van der Veer.

He has been appointed at a time when oil companies are facing a troubled outlook because of the financial crisis and the tumbling oil price.

Shell’s third-quarter results, released on Thursday, are expected to show a rise in net profit to about $7.2bn but those figures have benefited from an oil price above Wednesday’s level of $68 a barrel.

However, the turmoil is also creating opportunities for large, well-financed companies with strong balance sheets such as Shell. Industry executives expect consolidation among smaller and medium-sized oil and gas companies, which has already been visible in a small flurry of deals in recent weeks.

Shell’s shares on Wednesday closed 11.6 per cent higher, up 177p at £17.05.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

In depth: Oil – Sep-15

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Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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