Malaysian state energy firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is expected to have a new leader soon as current President and CEO Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin (Wan Zul) is expected to leave the organization after 5 years in the helm.
State news agency Bernama has reported that the departure is anticipated to be declared soon and an internal candidate will succeed him. It is unclear at this point in time what led to Wan Zul’s decision to leave the national oil firm where he has spent his entire career.
Being a state-owned entity, Wan Zul’s appointment like any other is a government decision. His term as CEO was extended in 2018 for three years.
Wan Zul took over Petronas’ helm in Q1 2015 at a time when crude oil prices had dropped below US$30 per barrel. In the next five years, he had a remarkably complicated responsibility compared with his predecessors to protect the country’s oil wealth when the world entered into a new era of low oil prices, while the government looked at Petronas for more dividend to support its expenditures.
Two weeks ago, Wan Zul stated that Petronas would be reducing its CAPEX for the financial year ending December 31, 2020, by 21% from its initial estimate of around $11.7 billion, as it was facing difficulties induced by the pandemic outbreak. The company has also proposed decreasing its operating expenditure (OPEX) by 12%.
Last year, Wan Zul opposed divesting Petronas’ equity stake in public-listed entities and the recommendation to list its upstream operation to accumulate funds for the Government. To him, these assets are Petronas’ currencies, which should only be dispossessed as a last resort in desperate times.
In 2016, he reduced 1,000 workers and suspended salary hikes for top management, beginning from vice-president, due to the extended industry-wide slowdown. This made him unpopular as job reduction at the national oil firm was considered an improbable option.