ROME — The Italian government on Saturday named a veteran Italian banker, Alessandro Profumo, to run state-controlled defense group Leonardo, replacing CEO Mauro Moretti, who had finished his three year mandate.

Genoa-born Profumo, 60, took the helm at Italian banking giant Unicredit in 1998, steering it to international growth through acquisitions and oversaw a leap in staff numbers from 15,000 to over 162,000 in over 20 countries before leaving in 2010.

Despite his business credentials, the appointment of a financial manager with no defense experience provoked rumors in Italy on Saturday that the government had handpicked Profumo to handle the sell off of the firm, but a government spokesman told Defense News the reports were "totally false."

"Profumo has international experience and a global culture and Leonardo needs to be international," said the spokesman, who declined to be named. "With Profumo we will reinforce the international business development of Leonardo."

After three years at the helm of the firm, Mauro Moretti switched the name of the firm from Finmeccanica to Leonardo and improved efficiencies by bringing the group's semi-autonomous units under one divisional roof.

But he was criticized for lacking experience of global markets and not winning enough orders. He denied the charge, claiming he had stopped taking on insufficiently profitable work.

Moretti’s determination to see his mandate renewed was weakened by a recent conviction over a 2009 rail crash when he was head of Italy’s railway network.

"Moretti did an excellent job increasing efficiencies but a manager with international experience is now needed to build global business," said the spokesman at the Italian finance ministry, which holds the controlling share in Leonardo. "It’s true Profumo’s experience is mainly financial but he did lead Unicredit to becoming one of the few really international banks in Europe."

The appointment however drew criticism from one Italian analyst, who pointed out that Profumo’s global business experience was not matched any experience in the defense sector.

"After three years of Moretti, who had no experience, putting Profumo in is inexplicable," said the analyst, who declined to be named.

"The Ministry of Defense was not consulted on this appointment. There is concern in the sector and doubts that Profumo can revive Leonardo’s international order book," he added.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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