Dubai :  Statoil ASA named Torgrim Reitan chief financial officer and placed new executives in Houston and London to help Norway's largest oil and natural gas producer in its international expansion.

Reitan will replace Eldar Saetre, who will become executive vice president of marketing, processing and renewable energy, the Stavanger-based company said in a statement today. The changes take effect from January 1. Tove Stuhr Sjoeblom was named chief of staff.

"The new corporate structure reinforces the execution of our global growth strategy and increases our efficiency through a simplified organisational structure," Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund said in the statement.

Statoil is expanding outside Norway, where fields are being depleted four decades after the country discovered oil. Statoil gets more than 25 per cent of its daily production from outside its home market in countries such as the US and Azerbaijan and is also expanding in renewable energy such as wind power.

The company appointed Bill Maloney as executive vice president in North America, based in Houston, and named John Knight as executive vice president of global strategy in London. Tim Dodson, a UK citizen with 25 years at Statoil, was named head of exploration and will be based in Oslo. Maloney and Knight both joined Statoil in 2002, the company said.

"With a more diversified top management and important leadership positions established outside Norway we also accelerate development of a stronger internal leadership pipeline," Lund said. "That's important for the long term development of Statoil."

The rest of the 10-person leader group will be based in Stavanger, except the head of international production and development, Peter Mellby, who will be in Oslo. Margareth Oevrum was named executive vice president in charge of technology projects and drilling while Oeystein Michelsen remains head of Norwegian production and development.

Wealth of experience

Reitan has 15 years of experience with Statoil and is currently senior vice president in charge of trading and operations in the business area natural gas.

"The fact that they're creating a new division for North America will increase the focus there," John Olaisen, an analyst with Carnegie ASA in Oslo, said by telephone. "That's where they'll have the strongest growth and where they will invest the most."