December 16, 2019 / 7:27 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 2-Kenya Airways names new acting CEO from Jan. 1

(Adds analyst quote, background on new CEO)

By Omar Mohammed

NAIROBI, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Kenya Airways named the head of its low-cost subsidiary as its new acting chief executive officer on Monday after its current boss announced his resignation in May amid the loss-making carrier’s renationalisation process.

The new acting CEO Allan Kilavuka has been CEO of Kenya Airways subsidiary Jambojet for about a year. He will continue in that role as well as leading Kenya Airways “until a substantive CEO for Kenya Airways has been recruited and appointed”, the carrier said.

Kenyan lawmakers in July voted to have the state take back the airline, which is 48.9% government-owned and 7.8% held by Air France-KLM. Kenya Airways was privatised more than 20 years ago but sank into debt and losses in 2014 after a failed expansion drive, among other factors.

The departing boss, Sebastian Mikosz, said in May that he would leave by the end of the year for personal reasons after leading the airline since June 2017.

“The nationalisation process is still ongoing and the airline can’t be left with a leadership vacuum,” said Lisa Kimathi, an investment analyst at Standard Investment Bank. “Kilavuka is definitely experienced on the operations of (Kenya Airways).”

Kilavuka has led the five-year-old low-cost carrier Jambojet since January 2019. Prior to that, he was General Electric’s global operations leader for sub-Saharan Africa, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mikosz wished his successor the best. “He knows he can count on me anytime,” he told Reuters in a text message.

Mikosz said in November he expected the nationalisation process to be completed by next year. Kenya Airways is hoping to emulate the successful model employed by its rival, state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest airline.

In August, Kenya Airways reported a first-half pretax loss of 8.56 billion Kenyan shillings ($83 million), more than double a year earlier.

The airline flies to 54 destinations around the world, the majority of which are in Africa. (Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Maggie Fick, Edmund Blair and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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