December 5, 2014 / 7:51 PM / 4 years ago

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Safran taps Petitcolin as next CEO, McInnes as chairman

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By Tim Hepher and Cyril Altmeyer

PARIS, Dec 5 (Reuters) - French aerospace group Safran on Friday named Philippe Petitcolin as its next chief executive and Ross McInnes as the future chairman, picking internal candidates as it seeks to deliver on promises over a new generation of jet engines.

The decision ends months of uncertainty over the successor to Jean-Paul Herteman, whose chairman and CEO roles will be split when he retires on April 23, Safran said after a board meeting.

Petitcolin is head of Safran’s Morpho security division and previously ran the core Snecma engines business, then defence. McInnes serves as finance director and deputy CEO.

Safran co-owns CFM International, the world’s largest jet engine maker by units sold, together with General Electric .

Its new LEAP aircraft engine is its biggest bet in decades and is key to Boeing and Airbus strategies.

Petitcolin’s appointment will “help guide Safran as it seeks to meet unprecedented commitments as effectively as possible,” the company said in a statement.

Safran shares rose 1.3 percent earlier and have risen 4.6 percent this year.

The new leaders are insiders with different backgrounds.

McInnes has dual French and Australian citizenship and speaks four languages.

The Oxford-educated former banker combines a dry wit and English mannerisms that sometimes ruffle Parisian feathers, but is respected by analysts for his intellect and independence.

He was credited with smoothing a politically sensitive Franco-Italian agro-food merger as finance chief of the now defunct Eridania Beghin-Say, but later clashed with the company as a shareholder in a storm over executive pay.

McInnes, considered a corporate governance expert, has also run finances at defence group Thales, health provider Generale de Sante and Gucci owner Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.

But he was forced to quit the luxury group after five months due to what French newspapers called a “personality clash” with chief executive Francois-Henri Pinault.

Mathematician Petitcolin, 62, is an exception to the tradition that French companies, notably aerospace ones, are run by a tiny cadre of alumni from the same engineering schools.

But his warm, down-to-earth personality and mastery of golf — he plays Pro-Am tournaments as a 10 handicapper — could serve as an ice breaker in the French capital’s boardrooms.

He played a key behind-the-scenes role in rescuing a delayed multinational engine development that threatened Europe’s biggest defence project, the A400M transporter, 5 years ago.

“He is modest and extremely pragmatic: a straightforward guy and someone you can have a proper business discussion with,” said a person who has negotiated with him directly.

Petitcolin ran cable manufacturer Labinal and then Safran engine unit Snecma, where he also oversaw early development of the LEAP engine. CFM faces a steep ramp-up of the engine from the beginning of 2015, amid worries over the supply chain. (Editing by Geert De Clercq)

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