Botten spreads his wings to AGL

OIL Search’s long-standing managing director Peter Botten has taken a step towards his eventual retirement from the Papua New Guinea-based oil and gas concern by joining the board of AGL Energy.
Botten spreads his wings to AGL Botten spreads his wings to AGL Botten spreads his wings to AGL Botten spreads his wings to AGL Botten spreads his wings to AGL

Haydn Black

Reporter

A company in the throes of a transition towards increased renewables and gas-fired power, AGL, one of Australia's worst polluters, held its AGM in Sydney yesterday to a chorus of protests from green groups calling on the company to stop burning coal within a decade and not by 2050 as is planned.

Botten, who had dealings with AGL when it was a partner in several PNG gas fields as part of an investment in the now-scrapped PNG to Australia pipeline project, will join AGL as a non-executive director from October 21, and he will stand for re-election at the 2017 AGM.

Botten has no immediate plans to leave Oil Search, at least before the next final investment decision (FID) is taken in the next phase of the company's LNG ambitions in late 2018.

That will most likely see the development of the P'nyang and Elk-Antelope fields in some sort of LNG development, which could involve further trains ant PNG LNG and a possible greenfields plant for Papua LNG, both likely to be operated by ExxonMobil.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Ben Wilson flagged Botten's retirement from Oil Search around 2018 in a client note after the bank hosted the oiler's management in Melbourne in August.

"Oil Search MD Peter Botten to remain until next FID in H2 2018 before stepping down," Wilson said.

"Mr Botten noted that the next FID point would be a natural time for an end to his long tenure, with many individuals within the organisation entrenched at all levels of the PNG political and community spectrum."

While Botten will continue to serve as managing director of Oil Search, the AGL board is satisfied that Peter's executive responsibilities will not impede the proper performance of his new duties.

His decision to join AGL sees the board expanding to accommodate his experience as the company grapples with a rapidly changing energy market.

The number of non-executive directors has risen from seven to eight, and the company expects to maintain that level for the near term as the board considers it to be a prudent step in order to ensure that, as the company grows it has the requisite range and depth of skills and experience.

"We are delighted to announce that a leader of Peter's calibre and experience will be joining the AGL board," AGL chairman Jerry Maycock said.

"Although AGL is committed to exiting its own operations in the upstream gas sector, the oil and gas supply chain remains integral to our business. As such, Peter's deep expertise in global energy markets, coupled with his broader corporate experience, will be extremely valuable."

In addition to his work with Oil Search, Botten serves as chairman for the Australian charity Business for Millennium Development, as well as the Oil Search Foundation, which promotes major health programmes throughout PNG.

Botten, who recently won the John Doran Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the oil and gas industry, is one of Australia's longest serving corporate bosses, having been CEO of Oil Search since 1994 and taken the company from a small oil producer to one of the region's biggest LNG exporters.

Under his regime, Oil Search has grown from a market capitalisation of around $200 million to its current position of more than $10 billion.

He had extensive worldwide experience in the oil and gas industry, holding various senior technical, managerial and board positions in a number of listed and government-owned organisations even before joining Oil Search.

Maycock also said he was preparing to step down and would start planning for succession at the end of his current term next year.

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