FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) named Simone Menne as its new chief financial officer on Monday, appointing the first female CFO at a German blue-chip company and picking a company insider to replace Stephan Gemkow.
Menne, 51, will assume office on July 1 and her contract will run through June 30, 2015, Germany’s biggest airline said a day ahead of its annual shareholders’ meeting.
The appointment puts the first woman on Lufthansa’s executive board, and it comes at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition has come under pressure to back legal quotas for women on company boards.
There was not a single woman on the management board of a blue-chip company until 2008, and currently, only 3.7 percent of top German managers are female, data has shown.
Menne came to Lufthansa from U.S.-based ITT Corp (ITT.N) as an auditor 23 years ago. She worked her way up and was most recently finance chief of bmi, after Lufthansa took full ownership of the money-losing British carrier.
Lufthansa initially aimed to turn around bmi but eventually admitted defeat and sold the carrier, which posted a 2011 net loss of 155 million euros ($202 million), to British Airways and Iberia owner IAG (ICAG.L).
Menne joins the executive board just after Lufthansa announced plans to cut 3,500 jobs as it grapples with a toxic mixture of soaring fuel prices, a weak economy and competition with fast-growing, low-cost carriers and Middle East airlines that are squeezing margins in the industry.
Lufthansa fared better in the global economic crisis than peers such as Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and British Airways, but it invested heavily in acquisitions and CEO Franz has said it needs to radically cut costs to remain competitive.
He has vowed to improve earnings by at least another 1.5 billion euros ($1.97 billion) by the end of 2014.
Current CFO Gemkow, 52, announced less than two weeks ago that he was quitting after more than 20 years with Lufthansa to head family run investment firm Haniel, the top shareholder in retailer Metro MEOG.DE and drugs distributor Celesio CLSGn.DE.
Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Maureen Bavdek