Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Ooredoo Algeria gets new boss; Safaricom embarks on fiber expansion; Telecom Italia hiring and firing.
Johan Dennelind, the young-looking but long-serving CEO of Swedish telecom operator Telia, is stepping down to "take on new challenges." Dennelind, who has led Telia for the past six years, will remain at the company until his notice period ends next year and a successor has been found. Telia has radically changed during his tenure at the business, retreating from its central Asian markets to focus on opportunities in the Nordic region. In a statement published on its website, Marie Ehrling, Telia's chair, said the company's board regretted Dennelind's decision. "The culture and strategy of the company have changed fundamentally and Telia is today a company with a strong business focus that truly represents responsible business," she said. "Johan's strong and brave leadership has been crucial for this transformation." Dennelind did not provide an indication of his plans next year, saying only that "careful considerations" had prompted the move. "Telia Company is now entering a new phase with several opportunities for value creation and with strong commitment from all our more than 20,000 employees," he said. Despite the plaudits, Telia's share price has lost about a tenth of its value in the last six years amid concern about long-term prospects in relatively small and competitive markets.
Ooredoo, the operator formerly known as Qatar Telecom, named Nikolai Beckers the CEO of its Algerian subsidiary. Beckers previously worked in senior management roles at operators including Deutsche Telekom and T-Online France. He will succeed Hendrik Kasteel, who left in murky circumstances last year and now runs MTN Cameroon in the musical-chairs game of telco management. Ooredoo operates across ten countries in the Middle East, north African and southeast Asia and made about 30 billion Qatari riyals ($8.2 billion) in revenues last year.
Kenya's Safaricom unveiled plans to extend its fiber-based networks to another 15,000 homes across the country in the next two months. It also said it would offer a 50% discount to new customers who sign up to the service in that period. The fiber-based network is currently available to some 300,000 homes, according to the operator, and now connects about 107,000. New areas to be covered include parts of Kisumu and Thika, Kizingo in Mombasa, and Kinoo, Komarock and Ruaka in Nairobi. "We continue to record remarkable growth driven by demand for unlimited entertainment, working at home, home CCTV among other emerging customer needs," said Michael Joseph, Safaricom's CEO, in a published statement.
One of Dennelind's most transformative moves as Telia CEO was in the facial hair business, with the acquisition of a beard lending a certain gravitas to the Swedish boss.
Telecom Italia said it would hire another 600 employees this year and next to support 5G-related transformation efforts after signing an "expansion contract" with the Italian labor ministry and trade union groups. The contract, it says, is "designed to support technological developments in companies with more than 1,000 employees." It remains unclear what impact the move will have on total headcount, but Telecom Italia has been shedding staff in recent years as it tries to boost profits while the outlook for sales growth remains poor. According to first-half results published last week, it has cut 585 jobs so far this year and staff numbers have dropped from 65,867 in 2015 to 57,316 at the end of June, with divestment activity partly responsible for that reduction.
Rostelecom, Russia's state-backed long-distance telecom operator, reported a 4% increase in revenues for its second quarter, to 80.2 billion Russian rubles ($1.23 billion), compared with the year-earlier period, and said net profit was up 40%, to RUB4.3 billion ($66.2 million). President Mikhail Oseevskiy said the operator's "digital" push was largely responsible for the improvements. "We are seeing significant demand for virtual IT infrastructure from corporate and state companies," he said in a statement. "To ensure our cloud services offering remains competitive, we have expanded the bandwidth allocated to the virtual offering by ten times to 10 Gbit/s, we have significantly increased the availability and stability of services at all data center sites and we have also commenced commercial operation of an additional 800 rack spaces at the new 'Udomlya' data center," he said.
Oman's OmanTel reported 38% growth in first-half sales, to about 1.26 billion Omani rials ($3.27 billion), compared with the year-earlier half, recording a 25% improvement in net profit, to OMR126.5 million ($328.6 million), according to a report in the Times of Oman. Growth was attributed to OmanTel's 21.9% stake in Zain Group, which performed well in its markets of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. "Zain Group performance has enabled us not only to offset the decline witnessed in the domestic operations but rather to grow our revenues and net profits to new record levels," said Talal Said Al Mamari, OmanTel's CEO, according to the Times report.
— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading