Colao departing Vodafone; operator returns to profit - Mobile World Live

Colao departing Vodafone; operator returns to profit

15 MAY 2018

Vittorio Colao (pictured) will step down as CEO of Vodafone Group in October after more than a decade at the helm of the company.

In a statement issued early today (15 May), Vodafone said the long-standing chief will be replaced by current CFO Nick Read on 1 October. The company acted swiftly to address any potential shareholder concerns over its succession plan by adding Read’s position will be filled by Margherita Della Valle, currently deputy CFO.

Gerard Kleisterlee, Vodafone Group chairman, said Colao had been an “exemplary leader and strategic visionary who has overseen a dramatic transformation of Vodafone” since taking the reins in July 2008.

The company cited achievements including Colao leading a transformation of Vodafone from a pure-play operator of 2G and 3G mobile networks “to one of the world’s leading converged communications companies” and overseeing a “strategic reshaping of the group”, including the exit of minority shareholdings (eg Verizon in the US), increases in customer numbers, and building “significant businesses in India, Egypt, Turkey and across Africa”.

News of Colao’s replacement comes shortly after Vodafone sealed a deal to acquire Liberty Global’s operations in Germany and the CEE region.

Kleisterlee unsurprisingly expressed confidence in Read’s ability to lead Vodafone, noting he was Colao’s right-hand man in terms of developing the company’s strategy. The current CFO combines “extensive international operational and commercial leadership with world-class financial acumen.”

Valle, meanwhile, “has a strong track record in financial leadership at the highest levels,” the chairman said.

Earnings
News of the management changes came as Vodafone revealed it overturned a net loss of €6.1 billion in fiscal 2017 (partly as a result of write-downs from its India unit) with a profit of €2.8 billion in fiscal 2018, which ran to 31 March. Revenue fell 2.2 per cent to €46.6 billion, attributed to a deconsolidation of Vodafone Netherlands following the formation of the VodafoneZiggo joint venture and foreign exchange movements.

Service revenue fell 4.5 per cent to €41.1 billion, comprising €30.7 billion from mobile (down from €32.8 billion) and €10.4 billion fixed (up marginally from €10.2 billion).

Colao said the operator expects to “sustain our profit growth in the year ahead, despite the arrival of a new entrant in Italy and competitive pressure in Spain”, as the company continues to cut operating costs.

The CEO added Vodafone “made good progress in securing approvals for the merger with Idea Cellular in India”, noting the deal is “expected to close imminently.”

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