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Airbus names new finance and operations chiefs as overhaul continues



PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) on Wednesday set in place the financial and operational pillars of a soon-to-be completely overhauled leadership as it emerges from months of internal strife caused by legal problems and delays in meeting record output goals.

FILE PHOTO: Dominik Asam, CFO of German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon arrives for the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Munich, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

The European planemaker named Dominik Asam, the finance director of German chipmaker Infineon Technologies (IFXGn.DE), as its next chief financial officer to replace fellow German Harald Wihelm, who already plans to step down next year.

Asam, an engineer who is also a former Siemens executive and began his career at investment bank Goldman Sachs, will join the on April 1, 2019, Airbus said in a statement. Wilhelm will stay in his role until the annual shareholder meeting 10 days later.

Airbus also appointed Bosch appliances executive Michael Schoellhorn as the new chief operating officer for its commercial aircraft business, replacing veteran troubleshooter Tom Williams who is due to retire at the end of this year.

Schoellhorn is currently chief operating officer of Bosch subsidiary BSH Home Appliances, which makes washing machines under the Bosch and Siemens brands.

Airbus highlighted his experience in digital manufacturing techniques that the planemaker is boosting in its factories.

Chief Executive Tom Enders paid tribute to Williams, an industry veteran of 50 years who has been seen as one of the most dependable internal voices as the company targets an ambitious ramp-up in production to meet soaring jet demand.

The plans have been derailed by engine problems as well as quality problems at a plant in Hamburg, industry sources say.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Airbus was poised to make top financial and operational appointments as incoming CEO Guillaume Faury tightens his grip after months of turmoil over corruption investigations and output delays.

Wilhelm’s decision in May to stand down was seen as a surprise after he ended payments to middlemen and opened the door to ongoing fraud investigations. He had shaped a more market-friendly stance and pushed a leaner corporate structure.

Although Wilhelm has not been accused of wrongdoing,, sources have said his exit reflects a board-driven clearout designed to present a new face to UK and French investigators.

Airbus shares stood 0.5 percent higher in early session trading.

Reuters reported last month that Wilhelm would be replaced by a fellow German from outside the group.

CEO Enders also steps down in April next year and the company is due to appoint a new chairman in 2020.

The appointments came weeks after Infineon Technologies took a new multi-million euro provision to cover the cost of a possible settlement with the administrator of its former memory chip unit Qimonda, sending its shares lower.

Infineon’s chips activate car accessories and cut vehicle emissions, making the company – which was spun off from engineering conglomerate Siemens in 1999 – exposed to trade friction and shifts in the economy in the same way as Airbus, whose main competitor is U.S. planemaker Boeing (BA.N).

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta