The Slovenia Times

Energy group Petrol gets new CEO

The headquarters of energy group Petrol. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The energy group Petrol is getting a new chairman as Nada Drobne Popovič stepped down at the supervisory board session on 22 November to be replaced by board member Sašo Berger.

Drobne Popovič took up the job in October 2019 after a controversial ousting of Tomaž Berločnik. Financial media have been reporting for a while that she was on the way out, though no grounds for termination have been provided.

An official statement from the company did not specify why she is leaving beyond saying that "the supervisors unanimously agreed to the early termination of [her] term of office."

Addressing a press conference in the evening, Drobne Popovič said she no longer saw eye to eye with the supervisory board regarding governance at the company.

"A company as large as Petrol must have that," she said, adding that it was the right thing for her to step down.

Supervisory board chairman Janez Žlak thanked her for leading the company "in a very difficult and unpredictable period."

Sašo Berger named new Petrol CEO. Photo: Tinkara Zupan/STA

Berger, born in 1966, joined Petrol's board with responsibilities for B2B, electricity and natural gas in September this year.

He previously worked in senior management at tech company S&T Slovenia. When S&T Slovenia and Iskratel merged in 2022, he became the CEO of Kontron and was appointed executive vice president at Kontron AG Group, according to his official resume.

Drobne Popovič described the new chairman as "the best person for the job." She will stay at the company until the end for the purposes of a smooth transition.

Petrol is one of Slovenia's largest companies. It reported group sales of €5.2 billion for the first nine months of the year, a 26% drop on the same period last year, with net profit almost quadrupling to €95 million.

This is a marked improvement from last year, when the company posted a rare loss, largely due to strict fuel price regulation that the government put in place to ease inflationary pressure.

Drobne Popovič, a vocal critic of the price regulation, said she was "proud to hand over Petrol to my successor in an excellent shape."

"We have stabilised operations ... This year's plan is achievable, Petrol will most likely exceed it," she added.

Nada Drobne Popović resigns as Petrol CEO.Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

The state has an almost 33% stake in Petrol and management changes, often initiated by the state-affiliated shareholders, are not uncommon.

However, Drobne Popovič had staying power, with several media reports suggesting that this was because of the support of one of the key shareholders, a group of companies owned by millionaire businessmen Darij Južna, who controls around a tenth of the company stock.

Drobne Popovič would not answer when asked whether she and Južna had now clashed.

Rumours of a change of management, first reported in the morning, did not seem to rile the financial market, with the share price remaining flat at €24.20 on 23 November.

The stock has gained 15% so far this year, outperforming the broader market by almost four percentage points.

The Petrol group employs about 5,900 people and operates almost 600 service stations in Slovenia and South-Eeast Europe.


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