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Airbus preparing  for next wave of management shakeup: sources

Move injects fresh blood into troubled operation, but means losing decades of experience against Boeing

London

AIRBUS is preparing for another round of management shakeup, according to people familiar with the matter, after overhauling most of its senior executive lineup.

The European planemaker is considering changes in key sales positions that report to new commercial chief Christian Scherer - including several occupied by veterans who worked under longtime sales chief John Leahy, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plans aren't public.

A final decision on any changes and their timing hasn't been made, they said.

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The moves would extend a painful leadership transition further down Airbus' ranks, two years after the Toulouse, France-based company disclosed irregularities in its use of middlemen to help secure lucrative aircraft contracts.

Chief executive officer Tom Enders and chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm are preparing to step down in April, while Fabrice Bregier, former head of the main jetliner business who was once viewed as the heir-apparent to Mr Enders, left the company earlier this year.

Airbus is to be run by Mr Bregier's replacement, former helicopters chief Guillaume Faury.

The moves being contemplated under Mr Scherer would inject fresh blood into an operation that, along with the wider Airbus group, has been left shaken by external and internal investigations.

At the same time, Airbus would lose decades of experience as it tries to keep pace with rival Boeing and placate customers upset about persistent engine issues.

A spokesman for Airbus declined to comment.

The 2016 disclosures to fraud agencies thrust the company into an extended period of soul-searching. Many senior roles have changed, sometimes more than once.

Mr Scherer's predecessor, Eric Schulz, resigned nine months after joining from Rolls-Royce Holdings to succeed Mr Leahy, who held the position starting in 1994.

Mr Leahy's former deputy, Kiran Rao, was passed over last year after initially being named as his successor. Eric Chen became chairman for China in January, after leading the unit as president for five years.

Separately, Latin America chief Rafael Alonso is retiring, the company said in August, while a senior executive in North America could also take that step, sources said.

Additional positions are under review, involving sales to customers across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, sources said.

While Airbus has fallen behind Boeing in orders this year, both companies have amassed record order books driven by rapid passenger-travel growth.

Airbus' close-to-7,400 aircraft orders will keep production lines ticking for the next nine years, giving the company a cushion to weather any sales-team disruption.

Airbus told British and French agencies in 2016 that it had uncovered undisclosed payments to third-party agents involved in deals for hundreds of commercial aircraft. The revelations forced the planemaker to revamp its top leadership, a challenge made more difficult by the ongoing probes.

Airbus rose 0.2 per cent to 101.06 euros at 10.07 am in Paris. The shares are up 22 per cent this year.