Sebastian Mikosz is the man whom the aviation industry will be watching in his attempt to fly Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ out of its current financial turbulence.
The Polish national, who took over in July, has already had a glimpse of the difficult road ahead. He is currently tied in a legal tussle with over 115 engineers and technicians who went on strike demanding higher pay.
Employee scuffles and their potential impact on the business notwithstanding, KQ’s long list of stakeholders, including Kenyan taxpayers, will be looking to see whether the much-touted restructuring will start bearing fruit in 2018.
The balance sheet reorganisation, which was completed mid-November, left the Treasury and 10 local banks controlling 87 per cent of the national carrier after Sh44.2 billion in doubtful loans were converted into shares.
With the pressure of loan repayments, including from aircraft lessors, having been eased, and with a relatively revamped management team in place, eyes will be on Mr Mikosz to deliver the goods.
Michael Joseph, the Kenya Airways’ chairman and a critical figure in Mr Mikosz’s selection and subsequent appointment, says he has faith in the former LOT Airlines boss.
“I have full confidence that Sebastian will deliver. Things are working out as planned; he is strong, confident and clearly understands the airline industry,” Mr Joseph said in a telephone interview.
According to Mr Joseph, KQ’s biggest risks next year will be the stability of fuel prices – the airline’s single-largest cost item – and how well the economy bounces back from this year’s hit.
The ongoing court tussles with current and former staff also stand out as risks for him even as he added that “KQ will respect the decision of the courts.”
Mr Mikosz, Mr Joseph opines, will concentrate his managerial efforts on strategically increasing KQ’s destinations as part of a network revamp that will also see the national carrier fly to the United States.
In the six months to September, the airline announced a Sh3.8 billion net loss for the six months to September, representing a 20.5 per cent improvement from last year’s performance on reduced costs.
Mr Joseph says cost-cutting will remain a top priority even as well as ways of growing revenues which reduced 0.4 per cent to Sh54.518 billion in the half-year.
“In the second or third quarter of next year, I believe the restructuring will start bearing fruit in the form of better financial results,” he said. “In 2018, we also expect to launch more flights to Europe and Asia. We could also recall some leased out fleet to help with this.”