May 14, 2018 / 1:45 PM / 6 months ago

Aiming for clearer skies: Air France-KLM to name interim CEO on Tuesday

PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM’s (AIRF.PA) board meets on Tuesday morning to appoint an interim chief executive for the Franco-Dutch airline who will have to tackle French unions emboldened after the departure of previous boss Jean-Marc Janaillac.

FILE PHOTO: The empty podium is seen after Jean-Marc Janaillac, Chief Executive Officer of Air France-KLM Group, attended a news conference to announce his resignation in Paris, France, May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Janaillac, who announced his resignation on May 4 after French staff voted against a pay proposal, has been asked to remain on until after the end of Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting, which starts at 1230 GMT.

Le Figaro reported on Monday that independent director Anne-Marie Couderc, 68, would be named temporary chairwoman of the group for several months.

Air France-KLM declined to comment.

Among other contenders for the interim CEO role was Anne-Marie Idrac, 66, also an independent director who was previously head of the RATP Paris public transport authority and the SNCF state railway operator.

Other names cited by French media include Fabrice Bregier, former head of the planemaking arm of aerospace and defense group Airbus, Franck Terner, currently CEO of the Air France business and Gilles Gateau, head of HR at Air France.

The French government, Air France-KLM’s largest shareholder with a 14 percent stake, has said it would like someone with experience of the aviation industry.

The new boss will be appointed on an interim basis but it is not clear how long that means.

The unions have suspended their strike action while Air France-KLM replaces Janaillac. So far, 15 days of walkouts this year have cost Air France-KLM around 400 million euros ($479 million), while rising oil prices are adding to the pressure.

Although the unions have said they feel vindicated in their strike action by Janaillac’s resignation, the signals are that change is coming for Air France.

French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to push through labor reforms, also prompting strikes on the railways.

Air France-KLM also has two relatively new shareholders in Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and China Eastern (600115.SS), which each hold a 9 percent stake.

“Given the changes to both board and politics, we expect the new CEO to be appointed with a mandate to restructure rather than appease,” HSBC analyst Andrew Lobbenberg said in a note.

Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer in Paris and Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Edmund Blair

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