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Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas

Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas was appointed president and chief executive officer of Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) effective Feb 10

Shamsul Azhar bin Abbas holds a degree in Political Science from Science University of Malaysia, a Masters of Science Degree (MSc.) in Energy Management from University of Pennsylvania, USA and a Technical Diploma in Petroleum Economics from Institute Francaise du Petrole (IFP), France. Shamsul is the only son of a respected army general, is married and recently adopted a three-year old boy,

Shamsul has spent his career at Petronas and has vast experience in the oil and gas industry. Having joined in 1974, Shamsul had held various important positions in the company where he was the vice-president of the oil, petrochemical, upstream exploration and maritime and logistics businesses.

His last position before retiring was president and chief executive officer of MISC Bhd, a Petronas subsidiary, between 2004 and 2009. Shamsul steered MISC,  the firm's shipping arm and owner of the world's largest fleet of LNG vessels, through dips in container shipping profitability for five years before retiring in 2009.

Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak called Shamsul back in 2010 to replace outgoing president and chief executive officer Hassan Merican for Shamsul was a straight oil man who could be flexible when necessary while Hassan was outspoken but rigid like the accountant he is.

Since the start of 2011, Shamsul has turned Najib's vision for more foreign investment into a push to boost productivity from Malaysia's marginal fields and ventured into deepwater projects. Oil majors have so far pledged $4.9 billion.

The crowning jewel would be Petronas' plan recently for a $20 billion complex in Johor to rival Singapore's oil hubs. That project involves bringing in international partners. Iraq figures big in this next phase. Under Hassan's watch in 2009, Petronas participated in consortiums that won the rights to drill oil from four huge Iraqi fields, which would be the firm's largest ever mobilisation.

Investors are keeping a close eye on the Iraqi projects that Shamsul estimates will hit a peak of 800,000 barrels of oil per day under Petronas' equity portion by 2015 - about 45 percent more than Malaysia's current crude oil output.