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Air New Zealand CEO resigns, weighs career in politics

Singapore

AIR New Zealand Ltd's chief executive Christopher Luxon is stepping down in September after seven years in the role, as one of the nation's most prominent businessmen considers a career in politics among his options.

"I would like to think more about how I can best use my skills, abilities and experience to make a further contribution to the success of New Zealand whether that be through corporate life, politics, or a not-for-profit" role, Mr Luxon, 48, said in a statement on Wednesday.

He was roped in by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year to lead an advisory council focused on improving business confidence and to help with reforming a slowing economy.

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Local media reports have said Mr Luxon could consider a political career with the opposition National Party although he has dismissed these claims.

Mr Luxon's consideration of a possible detour into politics after he steps down would coincide with the lead up to the country's next elections, likely to take place in the second half of 2020.

Ms Ardern holds enormous personal support but relies on a coalition with smaller parties against the centre-right National Party, which is popular with businesses and holds the most seats of any political party in parliament.

Under Mr Luxon's leadership, Air New Zealand, which is 51 per cent government-owned, has produced consistent profits in recent years as it renewed its fleet with fuel-efficient planes and focused on routes in the Pacific Rim.

Air New Zealand said it had begun an international search for his replacement.

Mr Luxon will be in the role until Sept 25, and will then move to advising and supporting the new CEO, and incoming chairman Therese Walsh, the airline said.

The airline has forecast it will report earnings before taxation of more than NZ$340 million (S$303.5 million) in the financial year ending in June, lower than its initial expectations due to higher oil prices, problems with Rolls-Royce Holdings engines and weaker demand.

The announcement on Mr Luxon's stepping down came after the stock market closed on Wednesday. REUTERS