Chambroad boss takes cues from Confucius to manage teapot boom

Wed Jul 13, 2016 5:34am EDT
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By Chen Aizhu

BOXING, China (Reuters) - For Ma Yunsheng, taking care of Mum and Dad is not just a part of doing business, but the key to its success.

Every month, the parents of workers at China's Chambroad Holding, an $8 billion oil refining and petrochemical company, get 200 yuan ($30), if their child is an ordinary worker, or up to 10 percent of their managerial offspring's salary.

The manager's parents also receive free apartments and access to elder care facilities within walking distance of their homes in Boxing, a town of 500,000 people in eastern China's Shandong province, where Chambroad is headquartered.

Chambroad's Chairman Ma Yunsheng, 53, looked to the deeply-held traditional Chinese value of filial piety, or respect for one's parents, in instituting these perks, he told Reuters in an interview. This corporate culture, rooted in the teachings of Chinese scholar Confucius, has driven Chambroad's ten-fold growth in revenue over the past decade to 50 billion yuan ($7.51 billion) in 2015, he said.

"The priority of Chambroad's management thinking goes to its staff first, then the local government, then its shareholders," said Ma, who in 1995 took over the small lubricant oil plant that Chambroad started out as in 1990. He became chairman when the company was privatised in 2000.

Speaking from his office adorned with Chinese calligraphy, Ma, an avid calligrapher himself, said Chambroad aims to become a century-old brand by following the same golden rule used during the past two decades.

From that lubes plant, Chambroad has expanded to running a 70,000 barrels-per-day oil refinery, producing petrochemicals and managing property. Chambroad is among over 20 private refining firms that China's government gave crude import licenses to starting in 2015, making them the stars of the global oil market as they snapped up Russia, North Sea and South American supply.

However, Ma plans to steer Chambroad away from its roots as an independent refiner, called "teapots" because of their relative smaller size. Investments will go toward fuel retailing, logistics, and the production of high-quality chemical precursor materials, setting its sights on profitability rather than turnover.   Continued...

Sculptures of Confucius with his students are seen near the headquarters office building of Chambroad Holding in Boxing, Shandong Province, China, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Aizhu Chen