Suncor Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Little indicated he’s willing to play ball with activist investor Elliott Investment Management.

Little said in an interview Tuesday he intends to engage with Elliott after the investment manager agitated for potential changes to Suncor’s board of directors and its management team. Elliott also stated the company should consider selling its retail fuel business.

“Our whole focus in this is to have collaborative discussions with our shareholders — that will include Elliott, as well as our other major shareholders. Discuss the path forward, get their feedback, and we talk about the path forward and sort it out,” he said.

“I think this is just a normal part of the journey.”

Elliott disclosed its 3.4 per cent stake in Suncor last month. The investment manager outlined a slate of concerns about the oil sands giant, including its relative underperformance to peers like Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., and its recent safety record, given 12 employees and contractors have died on the job since 2014.

Elliott, founded by billionaire Paul Singer, asked for five independent directors to be added to Suncor’s board, and called for a management review at the oil sands pioneer.

Little has thus far pushed back against some of those recommendations, asserting on the company’s first-quarter conference call Tuesday that Petro-Canada’s retail network is “the best in North America” and should “stay together” with the rest of the company’s assets.

Little said he was hopeful Suncor could find common ground with Elliott, in spite of a disagreement over the future of the retail fuel business.

“We’re always looking to work collaboratively with our shareholders on the path forward, and that will be true of Elliott and all our other major shareholders,” he said. “As we engage with Elliott, we will listen, try and figure out what we can learn from it, hear the different perspectives and chart the path forward.”

The company did show some progress through the first quarter of this year, buoyed by oil prices running at multi-year highs. Revenue in the quarter hit $13.5 billion, and Suncor raised its quarterly dividend 12 per cent to $0.47 per share.