By Gwénaëlle Barzic and Geert De Clercq
France's Engie appointed an oil services executive to execute its strategy of refocusing the utility on renewable energy and grids, overlooking the internal candidate behind its new green strategy.
Engie said in a statement it had appointed Franco-American oil services firm TechnipFMC executive Catherine MacGregor as new CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
MacGregor's appointment comes eight months after the ouster of Isabelle Kocher and in the middle of a takeover bid from water utility Veolia for Engie unit Suez.
MacGregor, 48, is a French national who currently heads Technip Energies after having spent 23 years at oil services group Schlumberger.
Asked about putting an oil services executive in charge of Engie's renewables drive, board chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu said on a call he saw no contradiction.
"One should not reduce Catherine MacGregor to someone who comes from the oil industry. She has had a career in services to the extractive industries, but more than that she is someone who has major operational experience in complex environments and who has overcome all those challenges successfully," he said.
He said he thought she was perfectly at ease with Engie's ambition to be a leader in the energy transition.
Asked about the division of labour between him and MacGregor, he said the CEO would execute strategic choices made by the board.
Clamadieu confirmed that Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, head of Engie North America and of the utility's global renewables business, had made it into the last round of the selection process and said she would continue to play a key role at Engie.
"The decision to invest more in this sector was based on a strategic presentation she had made to the board a few months ago, which convinced us this was the right way to go," he said.
Clamadieu said he counted on her to continue her mission and said he was certain Avice-Huet would have an important role in MacGregor's new team.
Engie has been hunting for a new CEO since February.
(Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Geert De Clercq and Dominique Vidalon; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Matthew Lewis)