Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Can Steve Williams Lead Suncor to New Heights?

Steve Williams got a taste of what life will be like running one of the Canada’s biggest and most profitable publicly traded companies during a July teleconference discussing Suncor Energy Inc.’s 2012 second-quarter results.

In many ways it was a solid quarter for Suncor. Its revenues, cash flow from operations, return on capital and production were all up compared to the second quarter of 2011. But the analysts and reporters who listened in on the call were more interested in what Suncor was going to accomplish rather than what it had just accomplished.

They seemed particularly interested in the health of three of Suncor’s biggest growth prospects – the proposed Fort Hills and Joslyn North oil sands projects and the Voyageur upgrader – that the company is developing jointly with France’s Total E&P Canada.
In a press release announcing its second quarter results, Suncor said it intended to present development plans for each of the projects to its board of directors for approval by the middle of 2013. (Total would also have to approve the projects for them to go ahead). But as analysts quizzed Williams about the future of Fort Hills, Joslyn North and Voyageur, the man who replaced retired CEO Rick George as the company’s chief executive officer in May indicated that timeframe was a moving target and that Suncor wouldn’t be sanctioning them if they weren’t the best projects out there. “Growth for the sake of growth doesn’t interest me too much,” Williams said in July. “What interests me is profitable growth.”

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