Andrew Brandler, the chief executive of CLP for over 13 years, will step down in the third quarter of this year to join the private office of its largest shareholder, the Kadoorie family.
Hong Kong's largest power utility announced the impending departure of Brandler, 56, yesterday, after it said in February full-year profit last year dropped 10.5 per cent on weak performances by overseas operations.
Meanwhile, the government is at an early stage of its interim review of CLP's scheme of control, which expires in 2018. The scheme determines the returns the company is allowed.
CLP has come under government and community pressure to refrain from tariff rises, which the firm has warned may be substantial over the next several years, owing to the cost of replacing coal with natural gas to cut pollution.
Brandler, the former head of Asia-Pacific corporate finance at British investment bank Schroders, was hired in 2000 to spearhead an overseas investment drive, as its Hong Kong business matured.
Pierre Lau, head of Asia utilities research at Citigroup, said he believed Brandler's stepping down was not due to CLP's disappointing results. "If that were the case, why would he be invited to join the Kadoorie family's private office?" he said.
Lau said CLP's entire board should be accountable for the decisions to invest in India and high-risk deregulated businesses in Australia.
Fellow Hong Kong utility Power Assets, which has also diversified away from Hong Kong over the past decade, has focused its expansion on Australia's low-risk regulated businesses.
Brandler will be succeeded by Richard Lancaster, managing director of CLP's Hong Kong unit, who has 30 years of experience in the power industry.
CLP's net profit last year fell to HK$8.31 billion on reduced profits in Australia, losses in India and asset impairments. That was 6.2 per cent less than the average estimate of analysts.
The firm's wholesale operations in Australia faced higher operating costs in its retail segment and low selling prices. A shortage of coal resulted in losses in India.