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Global CEOs heed lessons from downturn

Nov 14, 2017
3 min read
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Some of the energy industry’s biggest players have given ADIPEC delegates an insight into how their companies have weathered the oil price downturn – and lessons learned.

It came during a Global Business Leaders panel centred on the theme: driving growth – pioneering strategies and breaking boundaries for global success.

The bosses of BP, Total and Petronas also reflected on possible future energy mixes, the surprise rise of shale and how technology may shape future strategy.

Bob Dudley, Group Chief Executive of BP, said: “We now have to be mindful of how we grow because we have to tackle carbon emissions at the same time as meeting the world’s growing energy needs.

“We need to find a way to do both things and they’re not mutually exclusive. We want to be realistic about how our world has changed and needs to change.

“The new reality of abundant new energies is really out there; it’s going to mean some downward pressure on prices…so we need transformation.”

Dudley continued: “I’m going to use the word stepchange. The first is simplicity in what we do; second is technology, so vitally important; the third efficiency. That’s what we have to do in the broad scale all around to have strategies for a successful new world. It’s a bit simplistic, but each one of those things is very important.

“None of us can do everything we need to do. We need to collaborate as partners. Companies that don’t respond quickly…”

Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne outlined lessons learned in the last three years.

“We need to be able to combine a strong discipline on one side and still an ambition to grow, because we need to think long term; we need to answer to the demand of energy for the world.

“This is where we have to adapt fundamentally. Disciplines mean to have a permanent eye on what is the break even of our portfolio of assets, because we don’t control the price of oil; we just rediscovered that.

“We came back to basics – we have to be excellent at what we control.”

Pouyanne said he and Dudley were lucky to head large companies, better suited to weather the price storm.

“We have some deep roots that whatever the weather is around us we can rely on,” said the Total chief.

“External circumstances forced us to adapt, but I don’t think you change your culture. One of the values we have is pioneering spirit.”

Dudley added: “Companies, all of us, have slightly different cultures. There’s a great business phrase that’s probably 20 years old that culture trumps strategy every time. You can have a great strategy, but if you don’t have a culture to execute it it’s going to be difficult.”

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