The regional leader: long-term vision and tough decisions in a turbulent market

By Sabina Kotova


Mariana Gheorghe

Mariana Gheorghe, CEO, OMV Petrom SA

Ethics, respect, partnership and a viable management vision. These are the business principles Mariana Gheorghe says underpin her work as chief executive officer and president of the executive board of OMV Petrom, the biggest oil and gas group in Southeast Europe.

“I have faith in people, because in the end they are the ones that add value to our business. I think teamwork is one of the most important business principles and, as a CEO, I believe in the power of example.”

“We have a balanced mix of managing experience and technical expertise. Over the last years I encouraged diversity by creating mixed teams of Romanians and expats and by promoting young managers,” she said.

Gheorghe became the head of the group in June 2006, two years after Romania sold a majority stake in Petrom to Austria’s oil giant OMV.

The post-privatisation period went along with tough challenges and responsible decision making, said Gheorghe.

“I usually like to say that the toughest challenges are also the biggest opportunities and that was the case with Petrom as well. One of the biggest problems Petrom had was its situation deriving from being a state-owned company for so many years, with all the faults that derive from it: lack of investments, aged assets and equipment, operational inefficiency, bureaucracy, political interference in commercial decisions, etc.”

Petrom carried out a large modernisation and efficiency increase programme over the last six years, aimed at the profound restructuring of the company.

One of the most important steps in this direction was the elaboration of a coherent strategy and, of course, investments and balancing between a heavy restructuring turnaround with capturing growth opportunities, the CEO said.

“The toughest decisions were the ones related to the restructuring process and, more specifically, the personnel restructuring, particularly when it affects the lives of tens of thousands of people. This is never an easy process, because it has a lot of social implications for the people affected.

In order to turn challenges into opportunities I consider it is important to balance the immediate needs with the long-term projects. By balancing the short-term needs with the long-term objectives and by staying committed to our strategic direction, we ensure a solid foundation for our sustainable development and competitiveness in the energy market.”

When asked to mention any event or decision occurring at OMV Petrom that required top-draw executive skills, Gheorghe said that “one such decision stands out in 2010 and that was the decision to permanently close the Arpechim refinery.”

In March this year OMV Petrom officially announced its decision to close the refinery as part of its strategy to maximise the integration value of the company and boost efficiency. OMV Petrom failed to find a credible buyer that would have the experience and financial resources necessary to safely and sustainably operate the plant.

Asked how the global financial crisis has changed her management style and the way she does business, Gheorghe said that in times of crisis, when risks increase, the mitigating factors are the most important. These include cash flow optimisation by reducing and postponing spending and restructuring and selling non-core assets.

“What we must learn from these measures is that they must be applied regardless of good or difficult economic situations; companies must return to the basic fundaments of market. This return to the fundamental market data will make companies that respond to market provocations, generate solid cash flow and are close to what the market wants, emerge victorious from this crisis,” she explained.

In May last year OMV Petrom revealed a fiveyear business strategy under which it will need to invest more than 1.0 billion euro annually through 2015 to support its development.

An important aspect to that strategy is environmental sustainability. By the end of this year, the group plans to launch commercial operations of its Dorobantu wind park and the Brazi combined cycle gas-fired plant power plant.