Austrian chief executive Otsch resigns

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Star Alliance carrier Austrian's chief executive, Alfred Otsch, has suddenly resigned as the company prepares to be absorbed into Lufthansa Group.

Otsch will step down in two days' time from the top position at the airline, a post he has held for two and a half years.

Austrian has given few details about the reasons behind his decision. It says simply: "The termination is mutually agreed and in accordance with his contract of employment."

Otsch arrived at the carrier in May 2006, insisting that it was strong enough to remain independent - a view which contrasted with that of his predecessor, who had suggested Austrian could benefit from a strategic partner.

But despite efforts to recapitalise and restructure, the airline's financial performance has remained dismal. It struggled against high fuel prices and Otsch's tenure was marred by Austrian's bitter dispute last year with a prospective Middle Eastern investor.

Austrian's weakening financial position eventually jolted the carrier into seeking a strategic partner and it subsequently agreed to be taken over by Lufthansa.

Otsch says his decision to step down, ahead of the Lufthansa acquisition, will "enable a new beginning at the company".

He adds: "Having co-operated closely with my colleagues on the board of management and the supervisory board while introducing the necessary change of course towards partnership, I am glad that the privatisation has now moved into its final stages with Lufthansa, the best possible partner for the Austrian Airlines Group."

Austrian says Peter Malanik and Andreas Bierwirth will assume responsibility for Otsch's duties, subject to supervisory board consent.