* CEO to step down on Sept. 25 after 7 yrs
* Corporate, political and not-for-profit careers are options
* Airline consistently profitable under his leadership (Updates to indicate picture available)
By Jamie Freed and Praveen Menon
SINGAPORE/WELLINGTON June 19 (Reuters) - Air New Zealand Ltd’s Chief Executive Christopher Luxon is stepping down in September after seven years in the role, as one of the nation’s most prominent businessmen considers a career in politics among his options.
“I would like to think more about how I can best use my skills, abilities and experience to make a further contribution to the success of New Zealand whether that be through corporate life, politics, or a not-for-profit” role, Luxon, 48, said in a statement on Wednesday.
He was roped in by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year to lead an advisory council focused on improving business confidence and to help with reforming a slowing economy.
Local media reports have said Luxon could consider a political career with the opposition National Party although he has dismissed these claims.
Luxon’s consideration of a possible detour into politics after he steps down would coincide with the lead up to the country’s next elections, likely to take place in the second half of 2020.
Ardern holds enormous personal support but relies on a coalition with smaller parties against the centre-right National Party, which is popular with businesses and holds the most seats of any political party in parliament.
Under Luxon’s leadership, Air New Zealand, which is 51 percent government-owned, has produced consistent profits in recent years as it renewed its fleet with fuel-efficient planes and focused on routes in the Pacific Rim.
Air New Zealand said it had begun an international search for his replacement.
Luxon will be in the role until Sept. 25, and will then move to advising and supporting the new CEO, and incoming Chairman Therese Walsh, the airline said.
The airline has forecast it will report earnings before taxation of more than NZ$340 million ($222 million) in the financial year ending in June, lower than its initial expectations due to higher oil prices, problems with Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC engines and weaker demand.
The announcement on Luxon’s stepping down came after the stock market closed on Wednesday. Air New Zealand’s shares are down 12.6% this year, compared to the 17% rise of the broader market. ($1 = 1.5319 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore and Praveen Menon in Wellington; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman)