Cologne, Germany-based airline group Deutsche Lufthansa AG, or Lufthansa, named industry newcomer Remco Steenbergen its CFO after back-to-back finance chief resignations this year and substantial pandemic-related business challenges.
With the move, Lufthansa is handing its finance responsibility back to a single executive after several departments shared the work following its most recent CFO's departure in April, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Steenbergen, who joins from his role as CFO at Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut AG, will begin as CFO on January 1, Lufthansa said. He takes over from CEO Carsten Spohr, who had been serving as interim finance chief since June.
Lufthansa in April reassigned finance tasks to its CEO, board and senior managers following CFO Ulrik Svensson's sudden departure, citing health reasons.
Steenbergen, with his team, will oversee controlling, risk management, corporate finance, accounting and balance sheets, taxes, purchasing and mergers and acquisitions. He will also be tasked with mending the company's dire balance sheet, which reflects its heavy losses incurred during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic amid extensive travel restrictions and lessened demand.
"With Remco Steenbergen, we will have a distinguished financial expert with extensive experience in the capital markets joining us as the new Lufthansa Group CFO," Karl-Ludwig Kley, chairman of the Deutsche Lufthansa AG Supervisory Board, said in a statement. "Especially now, when the pandemic is having such serious consequences for air travel, an internationally experienced and well-respected CFO is more important than ever for Lufthansa Group: not only to overcome the current crisis but also for the coming years, when we have to — and want to — pay back government stabilization funds."
In 2020, Lufthansa has received about $10.6 billion in government aid and has nearly $4 billion in debt to repay next year. In its latest quarter, it had a $2.36 billion loss, compared with a $1.4 billion profit in the same period last year.
"Major topics for Lufthansa over the next years will be cost discipline, restoring cash flow generation, optimizing the asset portfolio, and refinancing," Ruxandra Haradau-Döser, head of airlines and airports equity research at financial services firm Kepler Cheuvreux SA, told the Journal.
Steenbergen's must boost cash flows to repay state aid Lufthansa received earlier this year, Stifel Financial Corp. analyst Johannes Braun told the Journal. "It will be an uphill struggle though, considering the structural damage Covid-19 has done on corporate travel and long-haul travel, which used to be the core of Lufthansa's profits."
Prior to Callebaut, Steenbergen worked at Dutch health technology company Royal Philips NV in finance, accounting and controller leadership roles. He began his career as a senior manager at KPMG.