Rolls-Royce Holdings, the FTSE-100 engineering group, will this week name a former Deloitte partner as its next finance chief as it tries to navigate through the headwinds of the COVID-19 crisis.
Sky News has learnt that Panos Kakoullis, who spent 30 years at the accountancy giant, has been picked as the Derby-based industrial titan’s next chief financial officer.
Mr Kakoullis’s appointment is expected to be announced to the London Stock Exchange as early as Monday morning.
It will come nearly six months after Rolls-Royce said that Stephen Daintith was leaving the embattled manufacturer of aircraft engines to join the online grocer Ocado.
Mr Kakoullis, who ran Deloitte’s global audit and assurance operations, was widely regarded as one of the firm’s top partners.
While he has no direct CFO experience at a FTSE-100 company, one former colleague of his said he was “ideally suited” to the job, having advised blue-chip names including Tesco and Vodafone.
Last year, he briefly joined PA Consulting as its chief executive-elect, but decided to leave after the company’s private equity backers decided to sell to a competitor rather than pursue a public listing.
Mr Kakoullis will join Rolls-Royce as it tries to steer itself through the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the company raised £5bn in debt and equity, and announced plans to cut 9000 jobs, many of which are in the UK.
In recent weeks, it confirmed it was planning to temporarily shut down its jet-engine factories this summer, affecting the 19,000 staff in its civil aerospace division.
The appointment of a new finance chief will not be the only board change at Rolls-Royce this year.
Sky News revealed recently that the company had hired headhunters to help identify its next chairman as Sir Ian Davis prepares to retire in 2022.
The search, which is being led by MWM Consulting, remains at an early stage, with an announcement unlikely until the second half of this year.
Sir Kevin Smith, the former GKN chief who is Rolls-Royce’s senior independent director, is overseeing the recruitment process.
The search could pave the way for the appointment of Rolls-Royce’s first foreign figurehead since the company was privatised by the government more than 30 years ago.
Following a 16-year spell in state ownership, Rolls-Royce returned to the private sector in 1987 with a stipulation that its chairman and chief executive must be British citizens.
That rule has since been relaxed to apply to either one of the top two jobs, meaning that an overseas national could become Rolls-Royce’s chairman for the first time.
Warren East, a Brit, has been the company’s chief executive since 2015.
Shares in Rolls-Royce have slumped by almost two-thirds during the last 12 months, with the stock fluctuating amid shifting sentiment about the prospects of a recovery for international air travel.
The entire aviation industry supply chain has been plunged into crisis by the pandemic.
Rolls-Royce is a rarity in corporate Britain because of the state’s golden share, which gives Whitehall a veto over certain strategic decisions.
It had planned to sell hundreds of millions of pounds of new shares to sovereign wealth funds from Kuwait and Singapore as part of its equity-raising, but was forced to abandon the proposals amid objections from City investors.
The company has drawn up plans to generate around £2bn from disposals, including the sale of its nuclear instrumentation business and the recently announced sale of Bergen, which makes marine engines.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce declined to comment on Sunday on Mr Kakoullis’s appointment.
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