November 21, 2018 / 8:08 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Airbus names finance, operations chiefs amid major overhaul

* Airbus appoints Infineon CFO as next finance chief

* Also appoints Bosch appliances executive as COO

* Retirement of top UK exec diminishes UK profile ahead of Brexit

* Airbus shares slightly stronger in early trading (Adds details, background on new CFO)

By Tim Hepher

PARIS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Airbus on Wednesday named new financial and operations chiefs as part of a complete leadership overhaul as it emerges from months of internal strife caused by legal problems and delays in meeting record output goals.

The European planemaker appointed Dominik Asam, finance director of German chipmaker Infineon Technologies, as its next chief financial officer to replace fellow German Harald Wilhelm.

Airbus is in the midst of a two-year management overhaul driven by a combination of high-level retirements and concerns over the impact of ongoing bribery investigations, which have overshadowed years of succession planning and damaged sales.

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

Airbus also appointed Bosch appliances executive Michael Schoellhorn as chief operating officer for commercial aircraft, replacing veteran Tom Williams who retires at the end of 2018.

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

Airbus highlighted his experience in digital manufacturing methods being implanted in its own factories.

Airbus shares were up 0.1 percent in morning trade.

CEO Tom Enders paid tribute to Williams, a Glasgow-born veteran of 50 years who has been working to deliver an ambitious ramp-up in output to meet soaring jet demand and who had delayed his retirement until the end of the year. The plans have been derailed by engine delays and quality problems in Hamburg.

Williams' replacement by a German executive delivers a blow to the profile of the pan-European company’s British operations ahead of Britain's departure from the European Union.

Planemaking boss Guillaume Faury, named last month as Enders' successor, is also expected to make senior changes in Airbus' quality-control oversight.

INVESTIGATIONS

Reuters reported on Tuesday Airbus was poised to make top financial and operational appointments.

Wilhelm's decision in May to stand down surprised many insiders 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 he has not been accused of wrongdoing, people close to the matter have said his exit reflects an accelerated, board-driven clearout designed to present a new face to investigators in the hope of winning more lenient settlements.

Reuters reported last month that Wilhelm would be replaced by a fellow German from outside Airbus. CEO Enders plans to leave at the same time as his CFO Wilhelm in April next year, and the company is also due to replace its chairman in 2020.

The cull is, meanwhile, continuing at a lower level.

The appointments come days after Infineon took a hefty provision for a 3.35-billion-euro claim by Qimonda, its former memory-chip unit that went under in 2009.

Asam's seven-year tenure at Infineon has coincided with a period of outperformance by the Munich-based maker of high-performance power management chips used in the auto industry.

In a sector notorious for boom-and-bust cycles, Infineon is seeking to position itself as a play on electric vehicles pioneered by Tesla and now by German carmakers like Volkswagen.

But the company, which was spun off from engineering conglomerate Siemens in 1999, is seen as vulnerable to trade friction and shifts in the economy in much the same way as Airbus, whose main competitor is U.S. planemaker Boeing. (Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine, Alexander Huebner; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mark Potter)

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