KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday named a new chief executive for national oil company Petroliam Nasional (Petronas), replacing a veteran of almost four decades with the company’s chief financial officer.
Petronas president and CEO Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin will become chairman of national carrier Malaysia Airlines, the Premier said in a statement.
Mr Wan Zulkiflee will be replaced by Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz. Both appointments are effective on July 1.
The change comes at a challenging time for Petronas as low oil prices, weak demand and the coronavirus pandemic lower profits.
It also follows a string of changes at state agencies since a new government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin came into power in March.
“In a challenging economic environment, there are some state-owned companies that need to be strengthened to meet the world’s new normal,” Tan Sri Muhyiddin said.
“The government will continue to relook the leadership in state-owned companies to ensure they are achieving the country’s socio-economic objectives.”
Local media including The Edge Malaysia had earlier reported that Mr Wan Zulkiflee was leaving after helming Petronas for five years.
His contract was renewed for three years from April 2018.
The chief executive position at Petronas, which is fully owned by the Malaysian government, is a prime ministerial appointment.
Mr Wan Zul, as he is known, is a Petronas veteran, joining the company in 1983 as a process engineer and working his way up through the ranks. He took over in 2015 and led the company through a period of tumultuous oil prices.
Benchmark Brent crude plunged to near 12-year lows soon after he took over, forcing Petronas to cut US$12 billion (S$16.7 billion) in costs and shed thousands of jobs for the first time.
He also championed an ambitious US$27 billion oil refinery and petrochemical plant joint venture with state-owned Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco.
The plant is located in the southern state of Johor.
Under his leadership, Petronas also expanded internationally.
As oil prices crashed again this year to below US$20 per barrel and Petronas’ profits fell 68 per cent in the first quarter, Mr Wan Zul said the firm will optimise costs and international capital expenditure.
Petronas is the sole manager of Malaysia’s oil and gas reserves, and a key source of government revenues.