THAI AIRWAYS International, the national carrier, will employ a professional chief financial officer from outside to help turn the airline's financial fortunes around, following last year's loss of Bt12 billion.
It will be the first time in THAI’s 54-year history that the CFO post has been filled by someone from outside the airline.
The search for a suitable person will be carried out by a selection committee chaired by Rungson Sriworasat, the Finance Ministry’s permanent secretary.
The appointee will fill the position left vacant by Wasukarn Visansawatdi, who served as the company’s executive vice president for finance and accounting. He resigned on April 15.
Air chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, chairman of the board of directors, said the recent board meeting had given the green light to open applications for the post.
The successful candidate will be hired on a four-year contract, and the selection process will be finalised over the next two months, he said.
As to the post of THAI president, which is also vacant, the selection committee will finalise its work in September, he added. The panel is chaired by Areepong Bhoocha-oom, secretary-general of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission.
Kanit Sangsubhan, an independent THAI director, said the person chosen as the new executive vice president for finance and accounting would be a professional, who would help analyse the company’s overall finances.
Financial analysis will also be applied to operational management, especially in regard to the launch of a cost-saving programme to save the carrier, he said.
However, Kanit added that getting a qualified candidate for the CFO job would be made more difficult because it attracted a lower salary than similar positions at other large companies.
General Prin Suvanadat, the caretaker deputy transport minister, said it was essential for THAI to have a professional CFO as the airline does business in 50 foreign currencies. It also suffered a big loss last year and is shouldering long-term debt from aircraft leasing.
Prajin, meanwhile, spoke to the media late on Tuesday after the end of a marathon nine-hour annual general shareholders’ meeting, at which shareholders expressed concern over the company’s governance and also mismanagement by the previous chairman, Ampon Kittiampon.
They also opposed Ampon’s return as a board member.
Prajin said there had been no trouble with the 15-member board following the comeback of Ampon. The board’s members work as a team and have their different roles to fulfil via committees, he added.
Shareholders criticised the qualifications of some of the board members, as well as the number of people on the board.
They said having 15 persons was excessive, as Singapore Airlines, for example, had just nine board members, while some of the THAI directors were not considered to be professionally qualified to help the carrier’s operations.
Kanit disagreed with the shareholders on this point and argued that board members’ qualifications did not lag those of any other airline.
In regard to fuel risk management, the board committee has handled the matter successfully, he insisted.
Prajin acknowledged that this year was a difficult time for the company, which was putting a huge effort into returning to profitability.
However, he said he believed that the company would survive last year’s loss, while earnings would be seen next year. A 2-per-cent increase in sales revenue is predicted for 2015.
Last year’s sales revenue came in at Bt211.6 billion and, due to THAI posting a loss of Bt12 billion, no dividend will be paid to shareholders.
Prajin said the company would tackle its weaknesses and increase its competitiveness, as well as maintaining synergy with Nok Air – in which it has a 39.2-per-cent stake – in order to strengthen its performance.