New boss promises clean sweep at SAirGroup

SAirGroup chief executive Mario Corti Keystone Archive

The new chief executive of SAirGroup has pledged to restore the troubled airline company to financial health with a minimum of pain for employees. Mario Corti's comments came as media reports warned of thousands of job cuts.

This content was published on March 19, 2001 - 09:30

"One thing is clear, we cannot tolerate these kind of losses," said Mario Corti, in an interview with the French-language Swiss television programme "Droite de Cité".

His comments come after he was appointed to the helm of SAirGroup last Friday. The company is struggling to turn itself around amid a failed expansion strategy, which has led to huge losses. The scale of the company's financial predicament will become clear on April 2, with the release of its results.

Corti, formerly chief financial officer of the world's largest food group, Nestlé, made it clear that he intended to simplify the structure of the company and was likely to initiate a drastic reorganisation.

He also said he would not reveal anything further about the changes until after the April 2 meeting.

Analysts expect the company, which controls both Swissair and Crossair, to reveal losses of between SFr2.5-2.7 billion ($1.46 billion).

The "SonntagsZeitung" newspaper said it had calculated that up to 2,000 jobs could be at risk at Swissair if the airline were to cut back on long-distance connections. Swissair employs some 7,700 people.

"I understand the worries of the employees...It is the task of a top manager to make a company healthy so that it does not need to lay off people," Corti said.

"Today I have no ready-made restructuring plan," he added.

Corti said previously that he's also keen to ditch the SAirGroup name, referring to the company by the name of Swissair. "The title SAirGroup really gets on my nerves," said Corti. "There is only one name for the company - and that's Swissair".

Shares in SAirGroup were more subdued on the Swiss exchange on Monday after pushing ahead some seven per cent on Friday after the announcement of Cortis' appointment. Sentiment was knocked on Monday as Zurich Kantonalbank increased its loss forecast from SFr770 million to SFr2.2 billion for 2001.

swissinfo with agencies

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