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Dec 1 (Reuters) – U.S. liquefied natural gas developer Tellurian Inc said Monday its President and Chief Executive Meg Gentle will leave the company and be replaced by Octavio Simoes, its executive vice president of LNG marketing and business development.
In what has been a tough year for the LNG industry due to coronavirus demand destruction, Tellurian did not say why Gentle, who had been with Tellurian since August 2016, was leaving. Gentle was not immediately available for comment.
Tellurian shares were up about 8%, putting the stock on track for its highest close since June.
Gentle owned about 11.83 million shares, or roughly 3.6%, of Tellurian’s stock in August, making her the fifth biggest shareholder behind Total SE (13.6%), Charif Souki (8.7%), the Souki Family 2016 Trust (7.9%) and Martin Houston (6.1%), according to data from Refinitiv. Souki and Houston founded Tellurian.
Tellurian is one of several LNG developers that have delayed making a final investment decision (FID) to build export plants because it is tough to find customers in a world with low natural gas prices.
Analysts at Cowen & Co noted Tellurian’s CEO change, which also included adding Jean Abiteboul to the board, gives the company additional personnel that have relationships with potential counterparties at a time when limited in-person interactions is hindering deal making and customers are still required for project sanction.
Simoes was previously with Sempra Energy. Abiteboul is president of GIIGNL, the Paris-based International Group of LNG Importers, and previously worked at Cheniere Energy Inc and Engie SA.
At the start of 2020, a dozen or so North American developers, including Tellurian, said they planned to make FIDs by the end of the year. But only Sempra’s Costa Azul in Mexico moved forward this year.
Tellurian was targeting a mid-2021 FID to build the $16.8 billion first phase of its Driftwood project in Louisiana, allowing it to produce first LNG in 2024.
North American developers have said they plan to make FIDs on 16 projects in 2021. Analysts, however, expect only a handful could actually go forward next year.
Cowen said it was unlikely Tellurian would make a FID in 2021.
Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Marguerita Choy
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