Wintershall's Seele To Head Austria's OMV From July


VIENNA, March 27 (Reuters) - Austrian energy company OMV has selected Rainer Seele, head of BASF's oil and gas subsidiary Wintershall since 2009, as its new chief executive.

Seele will start on July 1, replacing Gerhard Roiss, whose contract was cut short last year over what sources described as management infighting.

OMV is shelving a production target of 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) by 2016 as slumping oil prices and an ailing gas business force it to cut investment plans.

Industry observers say the experienced Seele is dedicated to strong business partnerships with Russia, which will come in handy at OMV which has done business with Russia's Gazprom for decades.

Seele, a chemist by training who joined BASF nearly three decades ago, said he would focus on increasing OMV's profitability, but declined to reveal details of his strategy before July 1.

Austria's biggest company by sales, OMV had revenue of around 36 billion euros ($39.24 billion) last year and posted an operating profit of 1.1 billion euros. This compares with Wintershall's 15 billion euros in revenue and an adjusted profit of 1.8 billion.

In 2014, Wintershall raised production to 136 million BOE. OMV had an output of around 113 million BOE, according to Reuters calculations.

OMV, which placed its bets under Roiss largely on expensive projects in the North Sea, has said it will slash its average annual capital expenditure.

Roiss, who had pushed for OMV's upstream focus, had his contract cut short after management infighting over the future of OMV's gas business, sources have told Reuters.

Roiss and the former head of the gas segment, Hans Peter Floren, clashed ahead of a decision last year to fold OMV's gas division into a new downstream segment, eliminating Floren's job.

The quarrels played out via the media to the dismay of OMV's main shareholder, Austria, which holds 31.5 percent, and Abu Dhabi's IPIC, which holds around a quarter of the company, according to sources close to the company.

Wintershall's Mario Mehren, currently in charge of exploration and production in Russia, North Africa and South America, will succeed Seele, Wintershall said.

($1 = 0.9174 euros)

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich and Vera Eckert and Harro ten Wolde in Frankfurt; Editing by Michael Shields)


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