After yesterday’s surprise departure of Reckitt Benckiser chief executive Laxman Narasimhan, it looks as if another FTSE 100 company is poised for a change at the top as Shell’s Ben van Beurden is reportedly preparing to step down.
A key feature of his near decade at the helm has been a focus on natural gas, including the big acquisition of BG Group in 2016.
“Arguably this strategy has been vindicated by recent events which have revealed the importance of gas for energy security and as a way of transitioning from more polluting fuels to renewables,” said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould.
“While there has been considerable volatility in the interim, ultimately since van Beurden took over at the beginning of 2014 he has delivered a total return to shareholders of 45.1%.
“Given this period encompassed an oil price crash very early in his tenure and a global pandemic, this is not too shabby.
“His successor faces a tough task though, with regulatory pressure likely to be a key theme. Internal appointments are rumoured to be in the running, befitting an organisation which has often looked inwards when planning a succession process.
“Whoever prevails will have to balance the demands of the environmental lobby, governments and investors. At least van Beurden spared them the decision of cutting the dividend, a step taken for the first time since the Second World War in 2020.
“However, there will be more hard decisions to come if the company is going to live up to its net zero rhetoric.”