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Oil refiner Neste says CEO Matti Lehmus will be stepping down

FILE PHOTO: Media tour of the Neste refinery located at Tuas South in Singapore

(Reuters) - Finnish refiner Neste said on Monday its president and CEO Matti Lehmus would be stepping down and that the company was launching a hunt to find his replacement.

Lehmus will continue as president and chief executive until his successor takes over, the firm said in a statement.

Shares of Finland's Neste plummeted in February after the biofuels producer and oil refiner posted fourth-quarter operating profit below expectations and forecast a lower 2024 renewable products sales margin than last year's.

Last November, Neste cut 400 jobs globally as it planned to save 50 million euros ($53.60 million) annually to prepare for increasing competition in renewable fuels.

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It also said it would merge its Renewable Aviation, Renewable Road Transportation and Renewable Polymers and Chemicals divisions into one and streamline its development portfolio.

The refiner and biofuels producer has grown rapidly in recent years after investing early in the renewable fuels it makes from waste and residue. Industries and transport operators are increasingly seeking greener fuel alternatives to cut their emissions.

But Neste's rapid growth came at the cost of complexities in its organisation as well as a large number of development projects, which Lehmus earlier said the firm needed to reassess.

($1 = 0.9329 euros)

(Reporting by Gnaneshwar Rajan and Kanjyik Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Pooja Desai)