THAI expects to name new chief in January

THAI expects to name new chief in January

Nearly 50 applicants apply to lead carrier through restructuring, says acting CEO

Thai Airways jets are seen on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Samut Prakan. (Post File Photo)
Thai Airways jets are seen on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Samut Prakan. (Post File Photo)

Thai Airways International expects to name a new permanent CEO as early as January as it proceeds with its restructuring plan, acting CEO Suvadhana Sibunruang said on Friday.

The new chief executive will take over as the national carrier continues with a major business reorganisation, which to far has has shed around half of its workforce and aircraft fleet.

“There were nearly 50 applicants,” Mr Suvadhana told Reuters on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) conference in Bangkok, saying a decision would be made early next year.

THAI, which has had acting CEOs since 2020, opened applications for the top job in September. Candidates are required to be Thai nationals in line with government regulations.

Interviews are expected to begin soon, with candidates from the public and private sectors both being assessed, Mr Suvadhana said.

The airline began restructuring debt worth 400 billion baht last year. The Central Bankruptcy Court on Oct 20 approved a revised business reorganisation plan, setting in motion a complete financial restructuring process.

The new CEO will have to work with the restructuring committee and oversee the airline’s recovery.

State entities could end up owning about 30% to 40% of the airline after the restructuring, down from current total of 67%, Mr Suvadhana said, depending on the outcome of debt-to-equity conversions.

“(The government) will maintain a large shareholding, but not enough to for the airline to become a state-owned enterprise again,” he said.

The Finance Ministry is expecting to inject 10 billion baht into THAI to keep its shareholding from dipping below 40%.

Under Thai law, companies that have government ownership of over 50% are subject to more rigid management and labour regulations than private companies.

The Finance Ministry plans to inject 10 billion baht into THAI to keep its shareholding from dipping below 40%.

The debt-ridden flag carrier has been making a better-than-expected recovery from the most financially trying period in its history. Its balance sheet has improved markedly since the removal of Covid-19 border restrictions, pushing up passenger and cargo traffic in recent months.

THAI’s load factor — a measure of how well an airline is filling available seats — was now about 80% thanks to a recovery in travel, said Mr Suvadhana, a level that it should be able to maintain next year.

However, it continues to lose money although losses are expected to narrow. On Friday it reported a third-quarter net loss of 4.79 billion baht, compared with a net profit of 40 billion in the same period last year,  which included a large one-off gain from the restructuring plan.

According to the financial statement released to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, total revenue in the third quarter was 32.7 billion baht, compared with 4.7 billion (excluding the gain from debt restructuring) a year earlier.

For the nine months to Sept 30, the net loss was 11.2 billion baht, compared with a restructuring-inflated profit of 51.1 billion the year before.

It is hoped that once the airline has carried out the revised restructuring plan and returns to the black while managing to service its debts, THAI shares can be relisted on the SET, probably at the end of 2024.

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