Hassan leaves a rich legacy


jagdev@thestar.com.my

KUALA LUMPUR: The mood was sombre at Tower 1 of the Petronas Twin Towers after staff of the national oil company learnt that their long-time president and CEO was replaced.

“It’s very depressing,’’ said an employee on the news that the final day of Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican’s tenure at Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) would officially be next Tuesday.

Hassan, who will be replaced by former MISC Bhd president and CEO Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas, began his service in Petronas in 1989 as senior vice-president finance.

He was promoted to the position of president and CEO in 1995 and took the post of acting chairman from 2004 after the passing of the late Tan Sri Azizan Zainal Abidin.

A chartered account by qualification, Hassan presided over Petronas during the “golden age” of the company.

It was during his tenure that Petronas cemented its position as a top Fortune 500 company, thanks to soaring crude oil prices and also the expansion of the companies businesses both locally and overseas.

One legacy Hassan leaves behind would be the success Petronas has attained. There are other numerous national oil companies in countries that have larger oil reserves than Malaysia but it was the way Petronas was run and built that separated itself from its kin.

Over the past five years alone, Petronas, which started off as a company with a paid-up capital of RM10mil, has seen revenue grow from RM137bil in 2005 to RM264.2bil during its 2009 financial year.

Net profit during that time grew from RM35.6bil in 2005 to RM52.5bil in 2009, with the peak of RM61bil earned during its 2008 financial year.

“The figures (of the company’s profits) speak for themselves as to the job he has done,” said one company employee.

During that time, much of the profit growth was not due to just the crude oil business. Petronas’ previous commitment to the manufacturing sector saw manufacturing revenue from its predominantly petrochemical business surge from RM78.2bil in 2005 to RM142bil in 2009.

Without that effort invested in manufacturing, Petronas’ revenue for 2009 would be 33% lower.

The professionalism and aptitude displayed by the company during those years also meant that a number of financial ratios such as return on revenue, return on total assets and return on average capital employed had put Petronas at the upper range of what its peers were accomplishing.

“Hassan is well known among the oil companies and they are impressed by the way he does things and has taken Petronas forward,” said a source.

In fact, the uncertain nature of his job did not mean he was shirking his responsibilities. Just a weeks ago, Petronas clinched the lucrative service contracts from the Iraqi government where it and consortium members had won four of the five bids to develop oil fields in Iraq.

The expansion into oilfields in Iraq will be the single largest mobilisation exercise undertaken by Petronas, which will not see the majority of its reserves reside outside of Malaysia.

Not wanting to let such know-how go to waste, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in a statement on Wednesday said he wanted to tap on Hassan’s experience and knowledge in the field of energy.

Sources indicated that Hassan was offered the post of special adviser to the Prime Minister on gas but unclear if he would accept that offer.

For the job Hassan has done at Petronas, he would also be remembered for his stoic demeanour.

“He is a straight talking guy. A no-nonsense character,” said one Petronas insider.

Related Stories: PM says he makes specific offer to Hassan Petronas appoints Shamsul as president, CEO It’s time for Petronas to get a chairman Shamsul seen as frontrunner for Petronas CEO post

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