French energy industry reeling from high-profile exits

21st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

In only a few days, France's powerful energy industry has been turned upside down as some of its most-high profile players have left -- or been forced out -- of their roles.

The death of Total's chief executive, Christophe de Margerie, in a plane crash on Tuesday has left a void at the top of France's largest company by profits and deprived the global oil industry of one of its most influential figures.

The oil giant said after the news that its board would meet "as soon as possible" to decide on a successor to the 63-year-old, who took the reins of the company in 2007 after serving as company number two since 1999.

A Paris dealer tipped Patrick Pouyanne, the president of Total's Refining & Chemicals division, and Philippe Boisseau, the president of Supply-Marketing and New Energies, as two likely candidates to replace him.

France is home to some of the world's top gas, nuclear and oil companies but they are struggling to remain competitive after years of underinvestment and against the influx of cheap fuel from the US's shale gas revolution.

De Margerie's sudden death comes the day after Areva chief executive Luc Oursel announced that he would be stepping down as head of the nuclear giant after three and a half years for unspecified health reasons.

Last week, EDF chief Henri Proglio, 65, was ousted by the French government as the head of the world's largest nuclear plant operator, which is 85 percent state-owned.

He will be replaced by Jean-Bernard Levy, the chief of French defence and electronics company Thales.

The changes come as France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, is seeking to cut its reliance on the power source as part of a shake up of the energy industry after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

On Tuesday, rival GDF Suez was also expected to take a decisive step in deciding on a successor for its chief executive, Gerard Mestrallet, who is due to step down in 2016.

The board was to decide whether to elevate chief financial officer Isabelle Kocher at the leading independent power producer in the world, placing her in a favourable position to take over from Mestrallet.

But major union CGT warned Friday that it would oppose Kocher's appointment.

© 2014 AFP

0 Comments To This Article