Pressure grows on Austria's OMV to unveil convincing strategy

Mon Dec 1, 2014 11:12am EST
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By Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich and Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) - With its ambitious expansion plans in doubt and top management in flux, oil and gas group OMV (OMVV.VI: Quote) is struggling to persuade investors that Austria's biggest company can master increasingly difficult markets.

Chief Executive Gerhard Roiss is leaving nearly two years ahead of schedule in June 2015, followed by Chairman Rudolf Kemler in October. With no successors yet named, investors believe decision-making at OMV has ground to a halt just as energy prices plunge due to a global glut.

"The strategy is unclear," said Bernhard Ruttenstorfer, fund manager at Ringturm, which is OMV's sixth-biggest investor, according to Thomson Reuters Data. "As far as the big picture is concerned, we don't expect decisions before the new management starts."

A company spokesman declined to comment on investors' concerns, reflected in OMV's share price which hit a two-year low on Monday. The stock has lost more than a third this year, badly lagging a European oil and gas index which has fallen around 13 percent.

OMV, which is 31.5 percent Austrian state-owned, has promised to come up with a new downstream division at the start of next year, combining weak gas and trading operations with its traditional refining and marketing businesses.

However, no details have yet emerged following October's announcement of the top-level departures, which company insiders say were due to boardroom infighting.

OMV had focused for years on Austria and then Romania, gradually expanding as far afield as Turkey, Yemen and Libya. Roiss, a marathon runner who after two decades at OMV became CEO in 2011, placed his bets on exploration and gas, shifting away from refining and marketing.

But oil prices have fallen around 40 percent since June to five-year lows, forcing OMV to curb its 3.9 billion euro ($4.9 billion) annual investments and warn it might not reach its output goal of 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2016.   Continued...

Raindrops are pictured on the logo of Austrian Energy group OMV in front of its headquarters in Vienna December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader