June 27, 2018 / 12:53 PM / 22 days ago

Air France-KLM says its search for new CEO is continuing

PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM said on Wednesday that its search for a new chief executive was continuing, adding it hoped to reach a decision “as quickly as possible”, amid a backdrop of concerns by some shareholders over the process.

FILE PHOTO: The Air France-KLM company logo is seen at the annual shareholder meeting in the La Defense business district in Puteaux, France, May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The airline has been hunting for a new boss to fill a gap left by the abrupt departure of chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac in May after staff rejected a pay proposal aimed at ending a series of strikes that have resulted in heavy losses.

Interim CEO Anne-Marie Couderc told the SNPL pilots union earlier this month that a decision could come in early July.

“The board has reviewed the progress made on the mid-term strategic plan for Air France-KLM Group. This will be the basis for the group strategic orientations to be decided by the future governance,” the airline said in a statement.

“During this meeting, the recruitment process for the future governance has also been presented and discussed...This process continues in line with the initial objective set by the board, aimed at implementation as quickly as possible,” it added.

Air France KLM made the statement after its board met in Amsterdam this week for an annual strategy seminar.

French media reported earlier this week that KLM, the Dutch airline part of the group, and Delta Airlines - which has an 8.8 percent stake - had expressed opposition toward possible plans to name Veolia chief financial officer Philippe Capron as new Air France KLM CEO.

Separately, French hotel group AccorHotels confirmed in June it was looking at taking a minority stake in Air France to compete better with the broader travel packages offered by online rivals such as Expedia (EXPE.O) and Booking.com.

Europe’s largest hotel group had said it was considering the move after Les Echos newspaper said AccorHotels might buy some or all of the French state’s 14.3 percent stake in Air France-KLM.

Air France KLM shares were down 1.2 percent in late session trading on Wednesday, while Accor shares were up 0.5 percent.

The French government has said it was open to talks between AccorHotels and Air France-KLM but would like first to settle the issue over the airline’s corporate governance.

While some investors have said they saw some sense in a tie-up between AccorHotels and Air France-KLM, notably through cooperation on loyalty programs, others have questioned why Accor would need to buy a stake in the troubled airline.

Those concerns have put some pressure on Accor shares recently, with Accor down around 2 percent so far in 2018.

Shares in Air France KLM are down by roughly 50 percent so far in 2018.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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