OPINION: Two months ago, Shell was still insisting that Ben van Beurden was not yet ready to relinquish his chief executive role, but, like the royal formalities on display in London this week, succession planning for Wael Sawan to take over has been going on for some time.

Van Beurden spotted Sawan as a future leader years ago, which is why the Beirut-born Shell lifer had been moving through the key divisional posts in the run-up to the announcement of his promotion last week.