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Wood boss Robin Watson announces plan to step down

Chief executive, Robin Watson at Wood PLC, Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen. Picture by Jim Irvine
Chief executive, Robin Watson at Wood PLC, Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen. Picture by Jim Irvine

Robin Watson, the chief executive of Aberdeen-headquartered energy services giant Wood has announced he is to retire from the top job.

Mr Watson has led the Aberdeen-based energy services giant since 2016,

The company announced the decision alongside its 2021 full year results, which showed that its revenues were down 14% on 2020.

Chief executive Robin Watson at Wood’s former headquarters on Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen. Photo by Jim Irvine

That transition to a new CEO is expected to follow “later this year”, and that Mr Watson would remain in post until the successful candidate is in place.

Prior to his current role, Mr Watson led Wood’s PSN division and held management positions at firms including Petrofac and Mobil Oil.

He was recognised for his contribution to the oil and gas industry in the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

He said the sale of Wood’s built environment business – which is expected to complete in the next few months – marked the perfect time for him to hand over the reins to someone new.

A decade at Wood

Watson said: “2022 marks my tenth year on the Wood board and my seventh as chief executive.

“When I think back to the business I joined, it was largely focused on the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico and was almost entirely an upstream oilfield services business.

“I reflect with pride on the business we have now and the opportunities we continue to unlock in some very exciting and relevant energy markets: carbon capture, hydrogen, bio-refining, minerals processing, solar and wind energy – all alongside our well-established conventional energy business, helping our clients on their own transition journeys.

“As such, I have shared with the board that I consider the sale of our built environment business as marking the start of the next strategic phase for Wood and an appropriate time for me to step down as chief executive.”

Wood chairman Roy Franklin paid tribute to Mr Watson, saying: “On behalf of the board, I thank Robin for his years of service to the company. Under his leadership, Wood has transformed into a global consulting and engineering business that operates across a wide range of energy and industrial markets worldwide.

“Robin has built a strong leadership team around him and a solid portfolio that provides us great opportunities as we look ahead. A search process is now underway, with both internal and external candidates, and we are confident a smooth transition will follow later this year.”

Challenging year

The company also confirmed plans to exit Russia, which is said accounted for around 1% of its revenue in 2021. It said it has “begun the process of withdrawing operations”.

Wood reported revenues of $6.4 billion (£4.9bn) in 2021, down 15.4% on 2020’s $7.56bn (£5.8bn), while pre-tax losses totalled $80.6m (£62m), cutting down on a loss of $148.6m (£114.2m) the prior year.

Net debt stood at $1.4bn (£1bn) as of December 31, 2021, up from $1,014 at the end of 2021, reflecting negative free cash flow in the year.

Mr Watson said 2021 was a “challenging year for the group, with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, mixed market conditions across our businesses and continued challenges in Projects impacting our performance”.

Despite this, the firm’s order book increased 19% year-on-year to $7.7bn.

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