Date
20 August 2017
Total refining chief Patrick Pouyanne, a known cost cutter, has been named to succeed chief executive Christophe de Margerie who died in a plane crash this week. Photo: Bloomberg
Total refining chief Patrick Pouyanne, a known cost cutter, has been named to succeed chief executive Christophe de Margerie who died in a plane crash this week. Photo: Bloomberg

Total names cost-cutting refining boss to top post

French oil company Total has appointed Patrick Pouyanne to succeed chief executive Christophe de Margerie who was killed in a plane crash in Moscow this week.

Pouyanne, 51, head of refining, had been considered as possible candidate to succeed de Margerie in the past. He has a reputation as a shrewd cost-cutter, Reuters reported Thursday.

The world’s fourth largest oil company also named former chief executive Thierry Desmarest non-executive chairman.

The appointments came less than 48 hours after de Margerie’s death.

Desmarest, 68, also previously honorary chairman of the oil group, will keep the chairman position until the end of 2015 after which the roles of chief executive and chairman will be combined.

De Margerie was both chairman and chief executive.

Total’s choice of a man from the downstream business comes just over a year after rival Royal Dutch Shell elevated Ben van Beurden, who formerly headed the Anglo-Dutch group’s refining arm, to become chief executive.

“Being in the downstream gives you more of a feel for costs, which is the big focus of the industry at the moment, whereas in the upstream you get a bit carried away sometimes, it’s kind of sexy,” Iain Reid, a BMO analyst in London, said.

“In the downstream it’s more about manufacturing and hard work – that’s what these big oil companies need at the moment.”

Under pressure from shareholders, major oil companies have sought to cut capital expenditure swollen during the years of high oil prices. Total initiated a “soft landing” in capex last year and unveiled a plan to cut operating costs last September.

Pouyanne had a major role in merging Total’s loss-making “downstream” refining and petrochemical businesses, a shake-up designed to counter declining European gasoline demand and bring US$650 million in extra cash per year from 2015.

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CG/RA

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