30
Jun

We will need to learn to live with the virus, says new Ampol boss

Ampol’s newly-appointed chief executive Matthew Halliday has said the resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases was an expected byproduct of getting the economy back on its feet, adding that Australians will have to learn to live alongside the virus.

Mr Halliday said while the ongoing spike in cases in Victoria was concerning, they were to be expected as more businesses reopen and people start to return to work.

“The government has been very clear that we’re going to continue to see some spikes as the economy reopens, and it’s really important for us to be able to reopen the economy,” he said. “Until there’s a vaccine we’re going to need to find ways of living with the virus.”

“I think we are reasonably well set-up as a country, given our overall infection rates, to be able to live alongside the virus and make sure that the economy continues to move forward.”

Ampol, which rebranded from Caltex earlier this year, on Monday appointed Mr Halliday as the company’s new chief executive officer. The former chief financial officer had been operating as interim CEO following the retirement of former boss Julian Segal in March.

Mr Halliday’s appointment is effective immediately, and the ex-Rio Tinto executive said finalising the rollout of the Ampol rebrand and delivering additional value to shareholders were his key priorities.

He is also committed to pushing forward with a mooted $1.1 billion property IPO, which the fuel and service station giant flagged in November last year but has since put on ice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ampol is now in an even better place to complete the sale, Mr Halliday said, due to the currently depressed investment environment.

“We’ve got an ongoing environment of low rates, and dividend yields that may have been there in the past now aren’t, so it’s only strengthened the market opportunity,” he said.

“So as soon as we see that market conditions are conducive…we’ll execute it.”

Credit Suisse analyst Grant Saligari said the appointment was a solid one by Ampol, with investors taking a favourable view of Mr Halliday’s approach to capital expenditure.

“In the interim role, he’s displayed some very strong leadership and has brought a strong financial focus to the business,” Mr Saligari said. “He has an approach which emphasises getting a return on capital, which has been generally well-received by the market.”

Ampol shares fell in early trade but were up 0.8 per cent to $28.13 by late afternoon.

The new head also continued to leave the door open for another takeover offer from Canadian convenience store giant Couche Tard or any other appropriate suitor. Couche-Tard, which means ‘night owl’ in French, pulled its $8.8 billion takeover offer in April due to COVID-19 but said it would be interested in returning to the table in the future.

“We’re focused on not looking over our shoulder but instead doing what we’ve said we’ll do and maximising value for our shareholders,” Mr Halliday said. “Then to the extent Couche-Tard or anyone else wants to come along, we’re forcing them to pay the right price.”

Mr Halliday’s base salary will be $1.65 million, and his short-term incentives will be 70 per cent of that salary.

 

Extracted from Brisbane Times