Thai Airways to name new CEO as early as Jan 2023, acting head says

Thai Airways International PCL (THAI.BK) expects to name a new permanent CEO as early as January 2023 as it proceeds with a pandemic-driven restructuring plan, the airline’s acting chief executive said on Friday.

The new chief executive will take over as the airline undergoes a bankruptcy protected debt restructuring and has shed around half of its workforce and aircraft fleet.

“There were nearly 50 applicants,” acting CEO Suvadhana Sibunruang told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry gathering in Bangkok, saying a decision would be made early next year.

The airline, which has had acting CEOs since 2020, opened applications for the top job in September. Candidates were 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, Suvadhana said.

Thai Airways began bankruptcy protected restructuring of debt worth 400 billion baht ($11.1 billion) last year.

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

Thai state agencies could own about 30% to 40% of the airline after the restructuring, down from current levels of 67%, Suvadhana said, depending how much debt-to-equity conversions they exercise.

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

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

The airline on Friday reported a third-quarter loss of 4.79 billion baht, down from a 40 billion baht profit the prior year that included a large one-off gain from the restructuring plan.

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

($1 = 36.0100 baht)