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Air France-KLM Chief Spinetta to Depart, Replaced by Juniac

Air France-KLM Group Chief Executive Officer Jean-Cyril Spinetta will step down on July 1, three months before he’s required to quit, with French unit head Alexandre de Juniac taking charge of Europe’s largest airline.

Spinetta will exit before his 70th birthday in October, when company statutes would compel him to depart, because he has completed his work, he said at a briefing in Paris.

Spinetta initially left Air France-KLM in 2009, only to be asked to return in 2011 when Pierre-Henri Gourgeon was ousted amid slumping earnings. The Paris-based company has lost money for two years and said last month that high fuel prices and a sluggish economy have the potential to derail a rebound in 2013.

Air France-KLM’s Transform 2015 cost-cutting program also faces challenges after French pilot union SNPL withdrew its cooperation and questioned a recent deal with cabin crew. While the company needs structural changes, financial and accounting concerns are dictating policy, with little regard for social considerations or long-term strategy, the union said March 21.

De Juniac, 51, has previously served as chief of staff to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde when she was French finance minister, and also worked as an adviser to her successor Francois Baroin. Juniac was also head of the air-systems unit at Thales SA, Europe’s biggest maker of defense electronics, before joining Air France in 2011.

Bonds Sold

As part of today’s management shuffle, Peter Hartman -- previously CEO of Dutch division KLM -- succeeds Leo van Wijk as vice chairman of Air France-KLM. The Air France unit’s chief financial officer, Frederic Gagey, is promoted to CEO.

Spinetta cited this week’s sale of convertible bonds, together with a bonds offering in December, as indicating that the company’s restructuring plan is making progress.

Air France-KLM sold 550 million euros ($710 million) of bonds later convertible into stock, it said today in a statement. The issue on March 28 will carry a coupon of 2.03 percent and is intended to help finance aircraft purchases.

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