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Vodafone CEO Nick Read to step down, Finance director to be interim CEO; Shares up by 1.6 percent

Zee News 05-12-2022 Zee News

After a four-year-long stint with Vodafone, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nick Read will step down. He will be replaced by his finance director on an interim basis until a successor is appointed. According to Reuters, this brings an end to a four-year tenure marked by a near halving of Vodafone's share price. The Vodafone shares were trading up by 1.6% in early trade.

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Read said in a statement that he agreed with the Vodafone board that it is the right moment to hand over the reign to a new leader who can build on Vodafone's strengths and capture the significant opportunities ahead. Read will be replaced on an interim basis by Margherita Della Valle, who has been tasked with accelerating "the execution of the company's strategy to improve operational performance and deliver shareholder value".

Vodafone said that the board has begun a process to find a new chief executive. Read led the former mobile telecoms market leader through the pandemic and also sold assets to increase its focus on Europe and Africa while spinning off its towers infrastructure business into a separate unit.

Despite the changes, Vodafone's shares have remained in the doldrums. They are down more than 40% since Read took over in October 2018, trading at the same level as two decades ago.

Only last month Vodafone cut its full-year outlook, citing soaring energy costs and deteriorating performance in its big European markets of Germany, Italy and Spain.

"The next question is what solutions are really available to the next CEO? Vodafone faces intractable headwinds. We think dividend policy should be treated as under review," Jefferies analysts wrote.

Read has been a cheerleader for consolidation in Vodafone's major European markets, including Britain, Spain, Italy and Portugal, but has struggled to turn intention into action.

In February he rejected an offer of more than 11 billion euros ($11.15 billion) for its Italian business from Iliad and Apax Partners, and in July two of its rivals in Spain - Orange and MasMovil - agreed a $19 billion merger.

(With Reuters inputs)

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