The new head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) has talked about his new-broom approach, bringing on a new generation of leaders and emphasising more efficiency as the company faces unprecedented challenges.
In exclusive insights provided to The National, Sultan Al Jaber, who was appointed in the middle of February as Adnoc‘s chief executive, and last week as a member of Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Petroleum Council – the emirate’s top decision-making body for its oil wealth – confirmed what already has started to become apparent: that he will make sweeping leadership changes and follow through on promises to improve efficiency.
“We are identifying and bringing along the next generation of the company’s leadership,” Mr Al Jaber said.
The key appointment within Adnoc so far has been the elevation of Abdul Munim Al Kindy to head of exploration and production for the parent company. Previously, he had been the chief executive of Adnoc’s main onshore operating company, Adco.
Mr Al Kindy, who has both engineering and business degrees from UK universities, and who has gained experience working in the private sector – at BP – is the kind of next-generation leader being taken on to bring an entrepreneurial sensibility to the business at a time when efficiency is vital to shore up the Government’s coffers.
“We are improving operational efficiency, optimising resources and adapting the mindset of our people to focus on our strategic objectives and on maintaining our competitive edge,” Mr Al Jaber said.
In an environment where many in the industry expect oil prices to remain lower for longer, he added: “We are being proactive and looking across the entire group to find ways to improve and optimise operational efficiency.”
There was an example of this last week, when Adnoc awarded its first “mega tender” – for 100,000 tonnes of steel tubing over three years, to the French company Vallourec – as part of the company’s drive to streamline its procurement process between its three main operating arms: Adco, Adma-Opco and Zadco.
Adnoc has previously talked of cost savings and efficiency, but the appointment of Mr Al Jaber seems to have brought a new tone within the company.
“What’s different this time? He does seem to be walking the walk,” said an Adnoc executive who didn’t want to be named. “There are many indications that this time it is not going to be just talk.”
Another key appointment was the promotion of Abdulla Salem Al Dhaheri to head up Adnoc’s refining and marketing. He was previously the chief executive of Adnoc Distribution, which runs the company’s petrol stations.
“We need to constantly explore ways to improve our commerciality and profitability, and to have any success with these goals, we need to continue investing in our people to strengthen their capabilities,” Mr Al Jaber said, noting that “we are working on strengthening and expanding our downstream, petrochemicals and refining business to ensure we harness maximum value”.
Adnoc last year doubled refining capacity at its major refinery at Ruwais, to more than 800,000 barrels per day and the company has been moving further downstream in its products capability to add value and adapt to a changing marketplace, especially in Asia, where more than 90 per cent of its crude is sold.
Mr Al Jaber’s appointment itself was seen as part of a broader change in leadership in Abu Dhabi to bring a new generation of technocrats to key government jobs.
The UAE leads the region in progress toward a more diversified economy, although much focus recently has been on Saudi Arabia’s own new leadership and reform process.
Notably, Mr Al Jaber did not mention any move to privatise Adnoc in any way, a topic that has dominated discussion of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco, since the idea was floated by the deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in January.
Adnoc, on the other hand, remains open to partnerships with international oil companies and the transfer of their technology and management skills, Mr Al Jaber made clear.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter