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Lucio Tan’s Philippine Air to name president as revamp continues

[MANILA] Philippine Airlines Inc is expected to name a new president Monday, replacing Jaime Bautista, who abruptly quit the post last month.

Gilbert Santa Maria, who was chief operating officer of IBEX Global Solutions Plc, tops the list of nominees, according to two people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the decision has yet to be made. Philippine Air's board of directors will meet on July 29.

Asked to confirm if Santa Maria has been chosen, Philippine Air majority owner Lucio Tan said Friday on the sidelines of a central-bank event, "that's true," without elaborating. Santa Maria didn't immediately respond to mobile-phone messages seeking comment.

Mr Tan, the Philippines' second-richest man, has been interim president as Asia's oldest airline undergoes management changes that started with Mr Bautista's retirement. Early this month, the carrier named new heads for its commercial and human resources departments. Vivienne Tan, executive vice president and daughter of Lucio, is assisting her father in day-to-day operations.

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"The announcement as to who will be the next PAL President and COO will be made at the appropriate time," Philippine Air spokesman Cielo Villaluna said Thursday, before the interview with Mr Tan. "It is the PAL Board which will make the decision and carry out the confirmation process, after which the required disclosures will be made."

Philippine Air in May completed changes to its long-haul jet fleet with the arrival of its sixth Airbus A350-900 aircraft that's designed for extra-long flights to North America and Europe. It's aiming to cut costs by reducing flights to destinations like the Middle East where there's overcapacity, Mr Bautista said weeks before his retirement.

PAL Holdings Inc, the publicly-listed parent of Philippine Air, cut its net loss to 4.33 billion pesos (S$115.6 million) in 2018 from 7.33 billion pesos in 2017 as earnings from passengers and cargo rose. At end-2018, Philippine Air's international network covered 39 cities in 18 countries and accounted for about 80 per cent of net revenue, while its domestic route covering 39 cities made up the rest.

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