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Energy giant Cenovus Energy Inc. CVE-T will soon have a new CEO, with current chief operating officer Jon McKenzie set to take the reins from Alex Pourbaix on April 26, the company announced Thursday.

Mr. Pourbaix told an investor call that he has been working on the leadership change with the board “for quite some time,” adding that it was important for the company to develop strong internal candidates and have a robust executive succession plan in place. He will move to executive chair of Cenovus in April.

Mr. McKenzie has more than 30 years of finance and operations experience under his belt. He was instrumental in Cenovus’s strategic merger with Husky Energy, where he served as chief financial officer from 2015 to 2018.

He told the investor call that because he helped develop the company strategy along with the rest of the leadership team, he expects Cenovus to “continue on the trajectory that we’ve been on for the last five years.”

Canada’s fossil-fuel sector is undergoing a fundamental shift as it faces intense pressure to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions.

That task has been an increasing focus for Mr. Pourbaix over the past few years, both for his own company and the Pathways Alliance – a group of major oil sands producers, including Cenovus, which is targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

“I’ve actually been very, very lucky to have a leadership team like I have that have been able to pick up the slack while I spent an increasing amount of time on that issue,” he said Thursday.

Mr. Pourbaix said it is “absolutely vital” that the oil and gas industry, and federal and provincial governments, “come to some type of durable agreement as to what our emission-reduction ambitions are, and that we put in place a structure to make sure that industry can do that while maintaining this incredibly important industry for Canada and for Alberta.”

With the fossil-fuel sector likely to represent about 10 per cent of Canada’s GDP this year, he said the country must find a way for the industry to be able to continue to thrive.

“And the way we’re going to do that is by constantly improving our environmental leadership.”

Mr. Pourbaix said he expects to continue pushing for policy to support a strong Canadian energy sector in his new position as executive chair.

Cenovus posted softer-than-expected results on Thursday, in part because of weaker downstream numbers and the 21-day outage of the Keystone pipeline in December after it spilled 14,000 barrels of oil in rural Kansas – the biggest U.S. spill in nine years.

Cenovus ramped up its rail program within a matter of weeks in response to the pipeline outage to ship crude south and alleviate pressure on storage, Keith Chiasson, the company’s executive VP of downstream operations, said Thursday.

Cenovus posted a profit of $784-million for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $408-million a year earlier. Its total revenue rose nearly 3 per cent to $14.1-billion in the fourth quarter.

Its total upstream production stood at 806,900 barrels per day, down from 825,300 a year earlier. Downstream production rose to 473,500 barrels per day from 469,900 last year.

A Bank of Nova Scotia research note Thursday said capital spending for the quarter was higher than the Street’s expectations.

A research note from RBC said that although Cenvous’ mixed fourth-quarter results “may cause the stock to lag today,” the change in leadership was a sound move for the company.

With a report from Reuters

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Study and track financial data on any traded entity: click to open the full quote page. Data updated as of 17/05/24 4:00pm EDT.

SymbolName% changeLast
CVE-T
Cenovus Energy Inc
+1.14%27.52

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