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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Backs Irkut Chief to Head Aviation Giant

MTIrkut chairman Alexei Fyodorov
President Vladimir Putin is backing the nomination of Irkut chairman Alexei Fyodorov, who has attracted foreign investors to the once-closed aerospace sector, to head a state-controlled holding company aimed at reviving the nation's aviation industry.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov nominated Fyodorov, who is also chief executive officer of MiG, at Monday's Cabinet meeting in the Kremlin, during which Putin gave his consent, Rossia state television reported. Last month, Putin signed a decree creating the holding company, Unified Aircraft.

Fyodorov, 53, who entered the Soviet aviation industry 32 years ago as an engineer, sold shares in Irkut in 2004 to raise money for expansion, becoming the first head of a Russian aviation or defense company to tap international markets. Fyodorov raised $65 million more for Irkut last year by selling a 10 percent stake to France-based European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co., or EADS.

"He is a dynamic manager with a sensible understanding of where the Russian aviation industry stands with regards to global aerospace," said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a defense think tank. "He does not have any illusions."

Putin is trying to revive an industry that employs almost half-million workers as he seeks to boost the nation's armed forces, diversify the economy toward heavy industry and high technology and develop the regions. Russia's regions, where many aircraft makers such as Irkut are based, are trailing in economic growth and living standards.

The state will control at least 75 percent of the holding company, which will include seven producers: publicly traded Irkut, and state-owned MiG, Sukhoi, Tupolev, Ilyushin and Kazan Aircraft Production Association and Sokol.

Fyodorov racked up $4.5 billion in orders for Irkut from India and Malaysia, mostly for Su-30 fighters, which compete with Boeing's F-18 and the Eurofighter, produced by BAE Systems and EADS, keeping the company afloat.