Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) split its European unit into two divisions, appointing Philipp Humm and Paolo Bertoluzzo to head the regional units as the world’s second-largest mobile phone company revamps its structure.
Humm, who joins from Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE)’s T-Mobile USA, will run the northern and eastern European units including Germany, the U.K. and Turkey, while Bertoluzzo, the chief executive officer of Vodafone Italy, will lead the southern European businesses such as Spain, Vodafone said today.
The reorganization, the third change to the operating structure since 2008, follows the intended departure of Europe chief Michel Combes to Vivendi SA. (VIV) The revamp allows Newbury, England-based Vodafone to set out potential succession candidates to CEO Vittorio Colao, people familiar with the matter said in May.
“The division of the role in two parts tells you that Colao will stay on for a couple of years,” said Robin Bienenstock, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein in London. The Europe chief was seen as a deputy to the CEO, she said. Now, “there may be a less clear-cut path to the top.”
Colao formerly held both positions of deputy CEO and Europe chief when he rejoined Vodafone in 2006. Combes, who was due to join Vivendi as head of the SFR French mobile-phone unit on Aug. 1, will no longer take that role, two people familiar with the matter said today. Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy is preparing to step down, the people said.
Vodafone is seeking to refocus on Europe, its largest market by sales as service revenue growth slows, held back by declining consumer spending in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
In northern and eastern Europe, “it’s all the good stuff, the growing stuff, while the southern economies are seriously afflicted,” Bienenstock said.
Vodafone on May 22 reported fourth-quarter revenue that beat analysts’ estimates as German and Turkish customers increased spending. Revenue climbed 4 percent in Germany, offsetting declines in Spain and Italy.
Humm will start his new job on Oct. 1. He and Bertoluzzo will join the company’s executive committee. Bertoluzzo will continue as Vodafone’s Italy chief in addition to his new role, the company said. Serpil Timuray, the head of Vodafone Turkey, has also been given greater responsibilities including chairing a committee overseeing the Vodafone brand.
Vodafone dropped 0.3 percent to 180.80 pence as in London, valuing the company at 89 billion pounds ($138 billion).
Deutsche Telekom announced yesterday that Humm will quit as T-Mobile USA chief, leaving the German company’s U.S. division in search of a replacement as it tries to recover from a failed sale to AT&T Inc. (T:US) last year.
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