Investors, politicians and the public were taken aback on Wednesday by the news that Martin Roman, the 42-year-old general manager of power company ČEZ, was stepping down, also leaving the company’s board of directors. Mr Roman leaves his post after seven years reportedly of his own initiative, and will be taking up a position on the company’s supervisory board. Shares in ČEZ teetered slightly on Thursday with the announcement, and word that the new ČEZ chief would be second in command Daniel Beneš. Meanwhile, analysts have gone into high gear assessing what the change of management might mean for the largest public utility company in Central Europe. That was the question we put to financial journalist Chris Johnstone of Czech Position.
Martin Roman, photo: CTK
“In practical terms I don’t see it as a major earthquake; I mean, they seemed to have groomed the number two fellow at the company, Daniel Beneš, to take over. So it’s a change of captain but the basic policy will change the same, and I don’t really think the market or the investors should really be that worried about the departure of Martin Roman."
What can you tell us about the incoming director Daniel Beneš? What kinds of issues will he be taking on and what can we expect of him?
“He’s been in ČEZ for years now and in top managerial posts, and basically he’s been second in command now for the last year or two. The main issue for ČEZ is the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plant, and possibly some other nuclear plants in the region. The second issue for the company is keeping up its profits, because the Czech government is looking for finance wherever it can, and it’s really targeted ČEZ as a milk cow to provide as much profit as possible. That’s means completing Temelín and other nuclear plants, but probably with less investment abroad, which was a feature of the company over the last decade."
Speaking of profits, there was sharp drop recently and ČEZ has faced other kinds of problems; do you think that they play a role in the departure of Roman, or do you take him at his word that he is leaving of his own accord?
Daniel Beneš, photo: CTK
“It’s a bit difficult at the moment to get to the bottom of why he’s going – whether it’s of his own will or because he’s been asked to. There seems to be some suggestion that the government is unhappy that t he Temelín expansion project is taking more time than originally expected. A while ago, ČEZ said that they would probably need an extra year added to the previous timeline for the expansion to take place. So, there might be some unhappiness there, but frankly, this news has come a bit as a bolt out of the blue. Roman’s been in the job for seven years now – seven years in a top management position – maybe there were person reasons, he wanted to get out, wanted a change, that’s fairly understandable. But there’s no doubt there will be a lot of speculation – people like to speculate – and there will be a lot of speculation about whether he moved on his own or was pushed.”