The new boss of BP has doubled down on the oil giant’s green strategy despite pressure to close the gap with rival Shell.
Murray Auchincloss was yesterday appointed permanent chief executive – a role he has held on an interim basis since Bernard Looney was forced to quit in disgrace last year.
Looney resigned in September after failing to be ‘fully transparent’ about personal relationships with colleagues.
The board, led by the chairman Helge Lund, later found him guilty of serious misconduct and clawed back £32m in pay, bonuses, share awards and other benefits.
Auchincloss, 53, whose partner also works for BP, a relationship he disclosed before becoming finance chief in 2020, was seen as the continuity candidate, having worked closely with Looney.
In a statement following his appointment, which dashed hopes BP may pick its first female chief executive, the Canadian businessman said BP’s strategy ‘does not change’.
Murray Auchincloss (pictured) was yesterday appointed permanent chief executive – a role he has held on an interim basis since Bernard Looney was forced to quit in disgrace last year
Looney resigned in September after failing to be ‘fully transparent’ about personal relationships with colleagues
Some investors have been critical of the pace of BP’s energy transition plan.
In contrast, Shell has scaled back its green strategy under chief executive Wael Sawan.
There are concerns the contrasting approaches are behind the poor performance of BP shares, with their weakness sparking speculation it could become a takeover target.
While BP’s stock has fallen more than 7pc over the last 12 months, Shell is up around 2pc. The promotion of Auchincloss, who will be paid £1.45m a year plus benefits and bonuses, was viewed by some as an end to months of uncertainty.
But others were concerned it could widen the gap with Shell and American rivals Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
‘We think BP needs a revolution not a continuation,’ said oil analyst Paul Sankey. ‘The last four internally appointed CEOs have been a combined disaster.’
Jamie Maddock, energy analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said BP shares have been weighed down by ‘inconsistent operational delivery, large renewable energy investment writedowns and a meandering strategy’.
He added: ‘With the continuity candidate installed, it may be that we see little change.
‘Pressure is likely to come if it becomes clear that strategy is not working as effectively as it could and the gap to Shell continues to grow.’
BP’s plan under Looney was to slash carbon emissions, invest in renewables, and cut oil and gas output by 2030.
Auchincloss said: ‘Our strategy – from international oil company to integrated energy company – does not change. I’m convinced about the significant value we can create.
‘Now, more than ever, our focus must remain on delivery… and always focusing on returns.’
Hargreaves Lansdown head of equity research Derren Nathan said: ‘Auchincloss certainly has a job to do to restore investor confidence and close the valuation gap with Shell, and an even wider gulf with its US peers.’
Two senior BP women – head of trading and shipping Carol Howle, and head of customers and products Emma Delaney – were on the shortlist of internal candidates but were beaten to the job by Auchincloss.
Environmental campaigners said BP should accelerate green transition plans.
‘A change at the top was an opportunity for a different approach that redirects significant spending towards the cheap, clean renewables we need to power us through the rest of the century,’ Greenpeace said.