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UPDATE 1-France's Total raises age limit for chairman to 70
May 16, 2014 / 4:25 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-France's Total raises age limit for chairman to 70

* Shareholders agree to raise age limit for chairman/CEO roles

* De Margerie says his successor will be from within oil group

* No reason to split two positions now (Adds details from AGM, vote results, shares)

PARIS, May 16 (Reuters) - Total shareholders agreed to raise the age limit for the oil group’s chairman and chief executive, a move that paves the way for Christophe de Margerie to extend his term at the helm of France’s largest listed company.

De Margerie has been chief executive for the last seven years and added the chairman’s role in 2010. He plans to seek re-appointment when his mandate runs out next year.

Earlier on Friday de Margerie, who turns 63 this year, told a newspaper that Total would not seek an outsider to replace him, in keeping with the company’s tradition.

However his departure could be some way off after the shareholder vote at the company’s annual meeting on Friday. He has not named any potential successors.

“At Total there’s a strong logic for the chairman and CEO to come from within the group,” De Margerie told La Tribune in an interview published on its website.

“There are already enough of us, we have enough talents inside to do that, if that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have done my job well. Because my mission is also to groom a successor.”

Shareholders accepted a resolution to raise the age limit for the chairman’s position to 70 from 65 and for the chief executive to 67 from 65.

Asked if some shareholders were pushing for a separation of the two positions, after a hedge fund pressured French cable maker Nexans into splitting the roles on Thursday, De Margerie deplored “dogmatism.”

“We consider that during certain periods it’s better that the two positions are split and during others that they are combined, it depends on the time, the person and the environment,” he said.

He said the combined role, which is common in France, was also the norm among his peers in the United States - unlike the Nordic countries and Britain.

No heir apparent has emerged so far, although Philippe Boisseau, head of Total’s new energy division and Patrick Pouyanne, head of the refining branch are often cited as credible long-term candidates.

Arnaud Breuillac, who last year was promoted as deputy head of the group’s upstream business, has also taken a more public role in recent months and will join the group’s executive committee in October.

Shares in Total have risen more than 16 percent this year, reaching a five-and-a-half-year high of 53.08 euros last week, but are still 16 percent below the all-time high of 63.4 euros hit in July 2007, the year de Margerie became CEO. (Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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