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BP appoints Murray Auchincloss as permanent CEO

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BP CEO Murray Auchincloss speaks at the panel dicscussion during the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference held at ADNEC Exhibition Center on October 2, 2023.
Ryan Lim | Afp | Getty Images

LONDON — Oil and gas major BP

His appointment comes roughly four months after his predecessor Bernard Looney resigned after less than four years in the post, citing undisclosed personal relationships with colleagues prior to becoming CEO.

Auchincloss, then chief financial officer, was named interim CEO at the time of Looney’s exit. He has been at BP since the company’s 1998 merger with Amoco Canada, which he joined in 1992. He is himself in a relationship with a BP colleague, which was previously and timely disclosed.

The energy company said it carried out a search process to appoint the new company boss since September.

“The board is in complete agreement that Murray was the outstanding candidate and is the right leader for BP,” Chair Helge Lund said in a Wednesday statement.

“It’s an honour to lead BP — this is a great company with great people. Our strategy — from international oil company to integrated energy company, or IOC to IEC — does not change. I’m convinced about the significant value we can create,” Auchincloss said, in a signal that the company will retain its Looney-launched direction of shifting from fossil fuel production toward renewable energy.

Questions had risen over the outlook for BP, which could have been pushed toward an alternative strategy in the event of an external hire. Company executives including Auchincloss had signaled that the oil major’s medium and longer-term would retain the same course, despite Looney’s shock departure.

“In our view, this represents the best possible outcome for BP shareholders in the short term, as it represents continuity for the investment case. An external candidate would have brought further uncertainty on the direction of the business and potentially more noise around another strategy shift,” RBC Associate Director of European Research Biraj Borkhataria said in a Wednesday note.

“Murray was the most logical successor, given he is well known and respected by the investor community,” they added. “Looking forward, with less focus on takeout speculation and potential strategy shifts, we believe investors should be able to focus more on the portfolio, underling growth and potential returns over time,” they added.

Like other companies with a past entrenched in fossil fuel production, BP has been navigating its transition toward green forms of energy amid increasingly stringent international pressure to decarbonize.

BP shares dipped 0.8% at the open Wednesday in the wake of the announcement. Kate Thomson remains interim chief financial officer, with the process to make a permanent appointment for the post still ongoing, a BP spokesperson told CNBC by email.

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