The company revealed Voser’s plans to retire in the first half of next year, after almost five years in the top job, as financial results released on Thursday beat expectations.
Shell posted a 3% rise in adjusted net profit (on a current cost of supplies basis and excluding one-time items) to $7.5 billion, from $7.3 billion a year ago. This result surpassed analysts’ average estimate of $6.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg survey.
Voser said the results were “underpinned by Shell’s growth projects, an improvement in downstream profitability, and were delivered despite a difficult security environment in Nigeria.”
In its upstream sector, Shell recorded earnings, excluding identified items, of $5.65 billion compared with $6.27 billion for the same period last year. These identified items were a net gain of $173 million compared with a net gain of $453 million for the 2012 first quarter.
The company attributed this upstream result to the ramp-up of the Pearl gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar, increased trading contributions, and higher gas realisations and tax credits being more than offset by lower liquids realisations, higher depreciation, increased operating and exploration expenses and lower earnings from liquefied natural gas ventures.
First-quarter output was on par with last year at 3.56 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Although excluding the impact of divestments, production sharing contract price effects and security impacts in Nigeria, total production was actually 2% higher this year.
Liquids production fell 2% while natural gas output rose by 3%, with the continued ramp-up of fields including Pearl GTL, Eagle Ford in the US and Pluto LNG in Australia offsetting the impact of field declines.
Equity LNG sales volumes of 5.15 million tonnes were in line with the 2012 first quarter, with Pluto LNG’s contribution being counterbalanced by frequent bunkering causing supply disruptions onshore Nigeria.
Shell said it was now planning to conduct a “structured and comprehensive review of internal and external candidates” to select a new chief executive.
An executive director since 2004 with a brief stint in the group chief financial officer role, Voser replaced the retired chief Jeroen van der Veer in July 2009.
“Peter’s leadership of Shell over the last four years has been impressive, reorganising the company, delivering growth, and developing a clear forward strategy with a strong portfolio of new options,” Shell chairman Jorma Ollila said in a statement.
*Danica Newnham, Upstreamonline.