Keystone Champion Named CEO at Oil-Sands Giant Cenovus

(Bloomberg) -- Alex Pourbaix, a driving force behind TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, has been named chief executive officer at Cenovus Energy Inc., taking the reins as the company seeks to rebuild investor confidence following its $13.3 billion oil-sands buy earlier this year.

Pourbaix, 52, replaces Brian Ferguson, who said earlier this year he planned to step down. Pourbaix spent 27 years at Calgary-based TransCanada, most recently as chief operating officer. He’ll take over the new role on Nov. 6 and join the board, according to a statement Monday.

The naming brings a lifelong pipelines executive to the head of one of Canada’s largest oil producers following the March acquisition from ConocoPhillips. Pourbaix was key in speaking on behalf of Keystone XL and winning American political approval. Still, his lack of production experience may give investors pause. Cenovus has plunged 39 percent since the start of the year.

“Some investors may be surprised that Cenovus has appointed a CEO without direct upstream oil & gas (or in-situ oil sands) experience,”  Greg Pardy, an analyst at Royal Bank of Canada, wrote in a note.

Reaction to the appointment was muted on Monday, with the shares moving between gains and losses. Cenovus was down 0.7 percent to C$12.30 at 10:49 a.m. in Toronto after earlier climbing as much as 1.2 percent.

Cenovus is in the midst of selling assets to help pay off debt that it took on to fund the Conoco deal. Calgary-based Cenovus is targeting C$4 billion ($3.1 billion) to C$5 billion in divestitures, and is still marketing its Weyburn operation in Saskatchewan.

Ferguson, 60, has led Cenovus since it was spun off from Encana Corp. in 2009. He has said he’d stay on as an adviser to the company through March.

With assistance from Rebecca Penty and David Scanlan. To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin Orland in Calgary at To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Scanlan at Joe Carroll, Reg Gale.


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