Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Japan Airlines names ex-pilot as new president

On Approach to Relisting, Japan Airlines Taps New President

The Wall Street Journal

TOKYO—Japan Airlines Co. named a new president Tuesday to lead it through the final year of its three-year, court-led restructuring. Yoshiharu Ueki, currently senior managing executive officer, will succeed Masaru Onishi.

"It may be a little too early," JAL chairman Kazuo Inamori said at a press conference, though he added, "I think it is important to pass (management) over to homegrown talents ... while I'm still at JAL."

Masaru Onishi, outgoing president and newly named chairman of JAL, left, and Yoshiharu Ueki, newly named president

Now nearly 80, Mr. Inamori—who was coaxed out of retirement to run the airline two years ago, after it became the largest nonfinancial company ever to file for bankruptcy protection in Japan—said he would keep his pledge to stay for three years. A renowned management guru who founded electronics maker Kyocera Corp. and telecom company KDDI Corp., he will take the title of honorary chairman for his final year at JAL, with Mr. Onishi becoming chairman.

Shareholders will vote on the appointments at a meeting in February.

Mr. Ueki, 59 years old, has spent his entire career at JAL, and will be the first former pilot to hold the office.

"As I have worked in the field, I understand the people working in the field," he said.

Mr. Ueki, whose current job has responsibility for route operations, said JAL now has to move into "stable cruise flight" mode—a period of sustainable growth. "The key point will be relisting," he added, without elaborating.

JAL's shares were delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in February 2010, following its bankruptcy filing. Having ended its bankruptcy protection in March, the company is looking to raise more than $6.5 billion in a relisting as early as September, according to a person familiar with the matter, although the outlook depends on market conditions.

The business environment looks challenging, with an uncertain outlook for the euro-zone economies and increasing price competition with budget carriers in Asia.

JAL slipped into second place in passenger numbers in Japan last fiscal year, behind All Nippon Airways Co. But its efforts to streamline routes and reduce its workforce have started paying off in profitability. Its operating profit of ¥106.1 billion ($1.38 billion) in the six months ending Sept. 30, the first half of its fiscal year, far outstripped the restructuring plan's full-year goal of ¥75.7 billion, and was nearly twice ANA's operating profit for the same period.

Source:   http://online.wsj.com

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