Julian Moxon/PARIS

THE FRENCH Government has appointed Aerospatiale president Louis Gallois to run the state-owned railway company, SNCF, leaving at least four men in contention for his vacated position.

The decision to move Gallois has been prompted by the poor state of SNCF's finances and the detention of its previous boss on corruption charges.

Gallois presided over a restructuring of Aerospatiale which has brought major improvements in efficiency through cuts in operating costs and reductions made in the workforce.

Nevertheless, Gallois' departure solves the problems of Aerospatiale forging an alliance with Dassault Aviation, where chairman Serge Dassault had been engaged in a bitter clash of personalities with Gallois.

Front-runners for the presidency apparently include Airbus Industrie chief Jean Pierson, Aerospatiale managing director Yves Michot, Jean Picq, head of the secretariat general of the armed forces and one of Matra Hachette's managing directors, Frederic d'Allest. The decision is expected to be taken "within a few days", according to one source.

Gallois joined Aerospatiale in 1992 after a three-year tenure at engine manufacturer Snecma. He oversaw the merger of its satellite and missiles businesses with those of Daimler-Benz Aerospace, and bringing the UK into the ATR (now Aero International (Regional)) regional-aircraft alliance.

His successor will be expected to continue restructuring the company in preparation for privatisation, as well as taking over discussions on the merger with Dassault Aviation, due to take place at the beginning of 1997.

He will also become central to the transformation of Airbus Industrie, in which France holds a 37.9% stake, to a full company.

Source: Flight International