Energy giant Shell names Ben van Beurden as new chief

LONDON (AFP) - Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday its Downstream Director Ben van Beurden would take over as group chief executive from next year, to replace the highly-respected Peter Voser.

Shell said Van Beurden, a Dutch 55-year-old, had a deep knowledge of the industry, having worked across a range of businesses and countries since he joined the firm in 1983.

"Ben will continue to drive and further develop the strategic agenda that we have set out, to generate competitive returns for our shareholders," said Chairman Jorma Ollila.

Voser, who built the oil company into a leader in liquefied natural gas after previously holding the finance director role during Shell's 2004 reserves crisis, shocked the industry in May when he announced his departure.

The change at the top comes as the company and its industry face huge challenges.

Shell is the western world's number two company by production behind Exxon Mobil. But, like its peers, it is struggling to replace reserves and boost production, and faces a squeeze on earnings as costs rise while the price of oil falls.

"I think it's a reason for optimism, it could mark a new area of technically focused leadership," Santander analyst Jason Kenney said.

Van Beurden had not been named as a possible contender for the job when Voser announced his departure, with the early focus on Finance Director Simon Henry and Andrew Brown, who became head of international upstream last year.

He has worked in both the Upstream and Downstream parts of the company however, including within the LNG section for 10 years. Voser is due to leave Shell at the end of March 2014, marking the end of 29 years with the Company.

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