Cathay Pacific names new chief after first loss in 8 years

Mr Rupert Hogg will take over as chief executive officer of the airline with effect from May.
Mr Rupert Hogg will take over as chief executive officer of the airline with effect from May.

HONG KONG • Cathay Pacific Airways has named Mr Rupert Hogg as its chief executive officer, replacing Mr Ivan Chu, as the airline struggles to revive earnings after reporting its first annual loss in eight years.

Mr Hogg, 55, chief operating officer since March 2014 and a 30-year veteran at parent Swire Group, will take over from May 1, Cathay said in a statement to the stock exchange yesterday.

Mr Chu, who was appointed CEO in 2014, will now become chairman of John Swire & Sons (China), according to the statement.

The change at the top, which usually occurs every three years at the carrier, comes in the midst of the biggest business revamp Cathay has embarked on in two decades to help reverse the decline in performance.

The premium carrier has been under pressure from low-cost rivals in the region and Chinese airlines that are offering direct routes, even as demand for business travel dips.

While sharing sketchy details of its review in January, Cathay said changes "will start at the top" and it would eliminate some positions as part of the reorganisation, with key changes taking effect by the middle of the year.

The airline has set a target of 30 per cent savings in employee costs at its Hong Kong head office, it said last month.

"Succession plan is well orchestrated," said Mr Will Horton, an analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation. "Rupert is pragmatic (about the fact) that it's beyond time for Cathay to move on and seek a stronger future."

Shares of Cathay have dropped about 30 per cent since Mr Chu became CEO. The carrier last month reported a net loss of HK$575 million (S$104 million) for 2016.

Asia's largest international airline has announced a three-year "corporate transformation" plan to reduce costs by as much as 3 per cent, while seeking to increase passenger capacity by as much as 5 per cent a year through measures including non-stop flights to new markets.

Cathay Pacific Group employed more than 33,700 people worldwide, including about 23,400 for the main airline, according to the interim report for the half-year ended June 2016.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Cathay Pacific names new chief after first loss in 8 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe