Air Berlin denies Etihad is pushing for a new CEO

Reuters, Friday 24 Aug 2012

Germany's second-biggest airline denied news in one of the country's magazines that it's major partner Etihad Airways demanded to reshuffle the CEO

Air Berlin denied a report that its major shareholder Etihad Airways is pushing for the German airline to find a new permanent chief executive quickly.

German monthly Manager Magazin said in an excerpt of an article to be published on Friday that James Hogan, chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, wanted a manager at the helm of Germany's second-biggest airline after Lufthansa, who had more aviation experience than current chief Hartmut Mehdorn.

"The report is nonsense and completely unfounded," a spokesman for Air Berlin said.

Etihad, which owns almost 30 per cent of Air Berlin, said it saw the report as "extremely scurrilous and irresponsible."

"Etihad Airways and Air Berlin have a very strong relationship which is starting to show positive progress. Both airlines are wholly committed to its long-term success," a spokesman for Etihad said.

Mehdorn, the former head of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, was appointed as interim CEO of Air Berlin a year ago, when former chief Joachim Hunold unexpectedly quit, having failed to return the carrier to profit. Mehdorn's contract has since been extended until the end of 2013.

Air Berlin, which has not posted a full-year operating profit since 2007, has already cut seats, unprofitable routes and postponed plane orders to reduce costs and shrink its way back to profitability after racking up debts to expand.

Earlier this month, it reported a rise in its second-quarter net loss to 66.2 million euros ($82.5 million) and said shareholder equity, or net worth, had plummeted by two thirds to 101 million euros as at the end of June.

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