The Nation



Sorajak quits top THAI post



Cites poor health following 'board's disappointments'

In office for just 14 months, Sorajak Kasemsuvan, president of Thai Airways International, the national carrier, resigned from the top post yesterday, citing poor health.

THAI's share price closed Bt0.10 or 0.67 per cent lower at Bt14.80. The stock's price has consistently moved lower since November 12, when it closed at Bt19.10.

The resignation followed news reports in the past few months that the airline's board had been disappointed with Sorajak's performance.

His resignation will take effect on January 2.

This is certain to leave a cloud over the operation, which lost more than Bt6.3 billion in the first nine months of this year. The firm needs a leader who can cure its ailing performance at a time when low-cost carriers have emerged to capture a growing share of the aviation industry.

Sorajak took office on October 8 last year. Yesterday, he did not appear at the press conference at THAI's head office that usually takes place after the board of directors' monthly meeting.

He also resigned as a director of Nok Air and Thai Smile Airways Co.

Kanit Sangsubhan, an independent director of THAI, said that because of health problems, Sorajak could resign without having to pay compensation for the early termination of his contract. If he had resigned without a good reason, he would have had to pay six months' compensation to the company.

Kanit said that in this case, Sorajak's reason was acceptable. He also said the president's performance had nothing to do with the company's losses this year.

Kanit noted that the board once reviewed Sorajak's performance and suggested improvement in some areas. The next evaluation was expected to take place in January or February. However, his resignation means his task with the company has ended.

Chokchai Panyayong, THAI's senior executive vice president for commercial, will take on the role of acting president. He held this interim post once before, after Piyasvasti Amranand, the previous president, was fired.

Chokchai said the company plans would move ahead. An early stage of the 2014 strategic plan has been proposed to the board. Next year, its details will be discussed with the directors.

Previously, the firm projected net profit of Bt6 billion this year, but Chokchai now is not confident of reaching even Bt2 billion. He noted that as a state enterprise, it was hard for THAI to compete with other airlines because the operation is bureaucratic, unable to cope with the changing business environment. To survive in business, the firm has to work like a private company and operate more flexibly.

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