Air France-KLM shares jump on June traffic rise

PARISAir France-KLM shares jumped the most in more than a year after a French newspaper reported that the troubled carrier is getting closer to appointing a new boss, and June traffic figures were better than expected.

The French government — the airline’s biggest shareholder — is pushing Catherine Guillouard, who heads Paris metro operator RATP, as the future CEO, French newspaper Le Figaro reported late on Sunday, without saying where it got the information. President Emmanuel Macron’s office is handling the matter directly and should make a decision next week, according to the newspaper.

Yesterday, Air France-KLM reported passenger traffic rose 3.5% last month, with figures for the French arm doing better and growing faster than at KLM.

“While KLM continues to perform strongly, the performance of Air France is positively surprising in the context of the uncertainties the airline faced over the last months,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Ruxandra Haradau-Doser said by email. The strong figures indicate “a better unit revenue performance in the second quarter than the company previously indicated”.

The shares rose as much as 8.4%, the biggest increase since February 2017. A spokeswoman for Air FranceKLM declined to comment on the CEO recruitment process as did a spokesman for the French economy minister. A spokesman for RATP said Guillouard is fully focused on her job at RATP.

Air France-KLM has been struggling to find a new CEO since JeanMarc Janaillac resigned in May after a protracted conflict with unions demanding a pay rise. Last month, the company had come close to appointing water utility executive Philippe Capron, who withdrew his candidacy following opposition from shareholders. The government has made expertise in the aviation sector the most important criteria for the new leader.

Guillouard, 53, may fit the profile. She spent a decade though 2007 at Air France — which merged with KLM in 2004 — rising through the ranks to become CFO and deputy head of human resources. She has been at her current job at the helm of the RATP for less than a year, succeeding now transport minister Elisabeth Borne. She sits on the board of European planemaker Airbus SE, and was a director at Paris airport operator ADP.

Macron’s chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, met with Guillouard last week. His office didn’t reply to requests for comment. Le Figaro reported that she initially declined to apply for the Air France-KLM job.

The shares were trading 8.1% higher at €7.46 (RM37.30) as of 11:09am in Paris yesterday, paring losses since the start of the year to 45%. — Bloomberg