Headlines

Karen gets rare extension
to lead Pertamina

Karen Agustiawan: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)
Karen Agustiawan: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Shareholders of Pertamina have approved the reappointment of the 54-year-old Karen Agustiawan as the president of the state oil and gas company but her second term is still subject to approval from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a minister said.

After weeks of silence, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the annual shareholders meeting of the state oil and gas company last week had decided to extend Karen’s five-year tenure as her term of office would end on Tuesday.

Dahlan said Karen’s reappointment was still “temporary” as it requires approval from Yudhoyono, who is now on state visits to Germany and Hungary. The President was expected to give his approval after returning this Friday, he added.

If approved by the President, the first female boss of PT Pertamina would become the first CEO to lead the state-owned energy firm for a second term in decades. Most of her predecessors were replaced before they completed their five-year term.

Karen, who became Pertamina’s chief in February 2009, has shown “good performance” and thus the shareholders meeting have proposed her term of office extension, he said. Dahlan, previously tight-lipped on Pertamina’s leadership and claiming the issue was “very sensitive”, hinted that Karen would likely be reelected to maintain the current management stability.

“So far, there is no candidate except Karen. Karen’s performance as Pertamina’s CEO has been quite good — not extraordinary, but good,” he told reporters in Jakarta.

In 2012, Pertamina booked Rp 25.89 trillion (US$2.67 billion) in net profits, up 18.4 percent from a year earlier, which, according to Dahlan, was a record-high achievement for the most bankable state company.

In addition, he said, Pertamina is currently under the spotlight to boost its own output and hence an established leadership would be needed to achieve the goal. “Even though Pertamina has yet to beat [Malaysia’s] Petronas, it has shown some improvement,” said Dahlan.

 By the end of this year, Pertamina aims to produce more than 240,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), up 24.4 percent from 2011 as well as reaping a net profit of Rp 28 trillion. In addition, Pertamina has targeted sealing a deal to acquire overseas oil blocks.

Separately, Pertamina spokesman Ali Mundakir said the Jakarta-based energy company would wait for the government to officially confirm the extension plan to Karen on Wednesday.

The top job at Pertamina has always been caught up in hullabaloo and never-ending political struggle to keep the company functioning as a cash cow for the ruling elite, especially ahead of legislative and presidential polls.

Under the New Order regime, the late lieutenant general Ibnu Sutowo, also the country’s former oil minister, served as the first and the longest presiding president director of Pertamina under the direct approval of President Soeharto from 1968 to 1976.

Military generals from Piet Harjoto, Joedo Soebono and AR Ramly each took over the top job from 1976 to 1988 before Faisal Abda’oe became the first civilian to lead Pertamina before he was replaced by Soegijanto in 2006.

Karen, Pertamina’s former upstream director, is the only chief in recent years who has not had her position terminated early by shareholders.

Previous president directors, from Soegijanto, who was the president director from 1996 to 1998, followed by Martiono Hadianto, Baihaki Hakim, Ariffi Nawawi and Widya Purnama, only lasted for three years before being replaced.

Ari Soemarno lasted for four years from 2006 to 2009 before he was replaced by Karen, his former staff expert for upstream business, following months of fuel shortages in Ari’s final year.

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