Just a week after striking a $21.8bn deal to buy Liberty Global's cable TV and broadband networks in Germany and Eastern Europe, Vodafone today announced that its chief executive Vittorio Colao will step down in October after 10 years.
Calao has been in the role for almost a decade, creating one of the world's leading communications companies with the largest mobile network in Europe, all while being a pioneer in the development of IoT.
Read will himself be replaced by deputy CFO Margherita Della Valle.
"On behalf of the board, I would like to express our gratitude to Vittorio for an outstanding tenure", said Gerard Kleisterlee, Chairman of Vodafone Group, in the company's statement. The merger announced previous year of Vodafone's unit in India with Idea, created to let the two combat a raging price war in the world's second-largest mobile-phone market, is also awaiting final approvals. Vodafone reported a 1.4% fourth quarter increase in service revenue, ahead of forecasts of a 1.1% rise, plus an 11.8% increase in earnings to €14.7 bn.
For Colao, what life after Vodafone will look like hasn't been decided, he said.
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For Read it's a "step-up" role, after a good track record at Vodafone, said James Ratzer, a telecom analyst at New Street Research in London.
Colao's departure was announced during the firm's annual results for fiscal '18, in which it posted a 2.2 per cent drop in group revenues to €46.57bn (£41bn).
The turnaround pointed to a "year of significant operational and strategic achievement and strong financial performance", Colao said, as quoted by AFP.
"The overall improvement in Vodafone's fortunes over the last 10 years is less evident in the United Kingdom, the company's worst major European market, albeit that some of this reflects an inherently more competitive mobile market with four strong players", he added.
"Our sustained investment in network quality supported robust commercial momentum", he added. "As a result, underlying EBITDA grew 7.9 per cent". "Our primary focus continues to be to accelerate the "Digital Vodafone" programme, which we believe is a unique opportunity to enhance our customers' experience, generate incremental value and improve cost efficiency".