Nova Chemicals CEO steps down

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Randy Woelfel has stepped down as chief executive of Nova Chemicals after failing to reach a new contract. Todd Karran, the company’s chief financial officer, has been named acting chief executive.

During a conference call with analysts Thursday, Mr. Karran said Nova’s board of directors and Mr. Woelfel were unable to agree on a contract extension.

“Both parties decided that now … was an opportune juncture to part,” said Mr. Karran.

Mr. Karran credited Mr. Woelfel with successfully steering the company to financial stability since it was acquired in 2009 by International Petroleum Investment Co. of the United Arab Emirates. “With the strong support of IPIC, [Mr. Woelfel] has been an integral part of leading this transformation and making tremendous progress in a short time.”

Nova, which makes specialty chemicals and plastics, is based in Calgary, Canada, and maintains its executive offices in Moon where it employs about 200. It also has a plant in Monaca, Beaver County, where about 200 work. Most of its production facilities are in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario.

Nova said it will consider internal and external candidates as it begins a search for Mr. Woelfel’s permanent successor. He was also a member of the company’s board prior to his departure.

Mr. Woelfel joined Nova in October 2009 -- eight months after IPIC bought it for $2.3 billion. Prior to that, Nova was teetering on bankruptcy mainly because of massive debt obligations.

Earlier Thursday, Nova said first-quarter profit jumped by 32 percent to $245 million, from $185 million in the first quarter of 2013, as a result of higher margins in its polyethylene business, which makes plastics used in consumer and industrial packaging materials. Revenues rose to $1.38 billion from $1.25 billion a year ago.

Mr. Karran, who will keep the job of CFO while acting as chief executive, joined Nova in 1985 and has held a number of leadership positions in the company. He has been chief financial officer since 2009.

Mr. Karran is “particularly well qualified to lead Nova Chemicals through this transitional period,” Khadem Abdulla Al Qubaisi, Nova’s chairman and IPIC managing director, said in a statement.

Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580. First Published May 1, 2014 12:18 PM

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