Vodafone Group Plc has announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Nick Read, will step down from his role at the end of 2022 after he failed to halt a years-long slide in the telecommunication giant’s share price, and mergers with major rivals were unable to materialize.
The telecom operator will place Chief Financial Officer Margherita Della Valle as interim CEO while the board, led by Chairman Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, seeks a replacement.
The company said in a statement that Read, who’d been in the post for four years and at Vodafone for more than two decades, will stay as an adviser until the end of March.
“I agreed with the board that now is the right moment to hand over to a new leader who can build on Vodafone’s strengths and capture the significant opportunities ahead,” Read said.
According to the operator, Vodafone’s share price has sunk about 44 per cent since Read took over in October 2018. In that time, the Newbury, England-based mobile and broadband giant has retrenched and cut debt.
The company notes that Read’s most significant move may have been to spin out and list the company’s tens of thousands of mobile masts, selling a stake in Frankfurt-listed listed Vantage Towers AG to a private equity consortium in a deal that valued the business US$17.1 billion in November.
However, the company is of the view that Read struggled to finalize deals that would have reduced the number of players in some of Vodafone’s biggest markets, such as the UK, Italy and Spain.
An approach for the Italian business was rebuffed, a key merger opportunity in Spain was missed, and talks with UK rival Three, owned by CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., are public but have yet to conclude, Vodafone explains.
More recently, a vehicle backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel bought 2.5 per cent of Vodafone, saying it saw opportunities to accelerate deals and improve profits.