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Business big shot: Frank Chapman

February 19, 2009

Frank Chapman can count himself lucky. While many FTSE chief executives are struggling in the face of plunging sales and profits, BG Group is going from strength to strength.

The energy company unveiled record annual results this month, with earnings per share up 74 per cent and operating profit up 65 per cent to £5.4 billion.

And yesterday the group, which was carved out of the old British Gas in 1997, appeared to be close to seizing control of Pure Energy, of Australia, after a fierce takeover battle.

Mr Chapman, 55, looks well placed to see off Shell, his old employer, to win Pure Energy — Arrow Energy, Shell’s Australian partner, is the rival bidder for Pure, a producer of coal seam gas.

Mr Chapman, a 34-year oil and gas industry veteran, was born in the East End of London. His father was a lorry driver and his mother a matron’s assistant in local hospitals. He went on to train as a mechanical engineer at Queen Mary College, London University, where he graduated with first-class honours in 1974.

Before joining British Gas in 1996, he spent 18 years with Shell in various roles in the North Sea and four years with BP.

He was appointed chief executive of BG in October 2000 and since then has seen the group through a period of steady growth after big discoveries in locations including Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt and Brazil.

Despite lower prices in recent months, it has proved to be an excellent time to be in the gas business.

With traditional gas supplies from places such as the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico falling behind demand, the world is hungry for new sources, such as imported liquefied natural gas — a booming business for BG.

That explains BG’s interest in Pure. It is seeking new sources of supply for the vast Asian market for gas and Australia’s reserves of coal seam gas are an easily accessible source.

Mr Chapman is a member of the Egyptian British Business Council and the Foreign Investors Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, where BG also has operations.

He has also served as a non-executive director of Dynegy Inc and is a chartered engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Companion of the Institute of Management. He is a keen sailor in his spare time.

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