Shell replaces finance chief Simon Henry with Jessica Uhl

Royal Dutch Shell announced on Dec 15, 2016, that its chief financial officer Simon Henry will be succeeded by Jessica Uhl.
Royal Dutch Shell announced on Dec 15, 2016, that its chief financial officer Simon Henry will be succeeded by Jessica Uhl.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Royal Dutch Shell said chief financial officer Simon Henry will leave the company after more than seven years in the role, and will be succeeded by Jessica Uhl.

Mr Henry will remain on the board as CFO until March 9, Shell said in a statement Thursday (Dec 15), without giving a reason for the departure. The 55-year-old, who has been with the oil giant for more than three decades and helped to push through its $54 billion acquisition of BG Group Plc earlier this year, will assist with the job transition until the end of June. Shares of the company were little changed.

"While this news is a little surprising, it is not a complete shock to us as Shell continues to evolve post-BG," Jefferies analysts Jason Gammel and Marc Kofler said in a note. "We would not expect this news to result in a material deviation from Shell's existing financial framework and strategic goals."

While Shell's most recent earnings showed signs the BG deal is starting to pay off as oil and gas production surges, the takeover also saddled the company with a weakened balance sheet after two years of low oil prices.

Shell's gearing - a measure of indebtedness - was 29 per cent at the end of the third quarter, compared with 12 per cent in the first quarter of 2015. Mr Henry warned investors earlier this year that gearing could surpass the 30 per cent threshold, a level that in the past has started to worry rating companies.

"The board is grateful to Simon for strengthening capital management and the balance sheet such as to allow the acquisition of BG and executing that deal," Chairman Charles Holliday said in a statement.

Ms Uhl, a US citizen, joined Shell in 2004 and has held finance leadership roles in businesses including Upstream, Integrated Gas and Downstream. She is currently executive vice president of finance for the Integrated Gas unit. Prior to joining Shell, she worked for Enron in Houston and Panama and Citibank, now know as Citigroup, in San Francisco, the company said.

"Seven years is a respectable period as CFO for a group such as Shell," Alex Brooks, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Ltd., said by e-mail. "I don't think that Ms Uhl is a known quantity to many in the capital markets community."