New Vodacom chief fresh from Spain

2012-07-07 09:18

As the African telecoms environment grows more competitive and data pricing becomes the new growth route for many operators, Vodacom has introduced Shameel Joosub as its new Group chief executive.

Described by analysts this week as innovative, experienced and competitive, Joosub takes over from Peter Uys, whose involvement with SA’s leading cellphone network spans 19 years.

Uys is an insider who has been with Vodacom since the company was rolled out of Telkom in 1994.

After the departure of Alan Knott-Craig, who now leads Cell C, Uys took over the reins but was regarded by telecoms analysts as a caretaker leader.

According to a Vodacom statement, Joosub will assume his new position in September to ensure a smooth transition and handover process.

Joosub was part of the Knott-Craig team and is associated with the roll out of Vodashops across the country.

He has been described as a “geek CEO” and a “techie”.

His relationship with Vodacom began in 1994 as an employee, the same year the operator launched its first commercial services in South Africa.

He has held a number of senior roles in Vodacom – including MD of the Vodacom Service Provider Company from 2000 to 2005 – and in his last post as head of Vodacom’s parent company, Vodafone Spain, where he had to contend with a struggling Spanish economy and intense competition that resulted in a sharp fall in profits and margins on his watch.

Joosub’s return to South Africa will see him dealing with the issue of the open MD position, which was recently vacated by Sipho Maseko.

According to analyst Chris Gilmore, “there is a possibility Maseko left Vodacom because he was bypassed for the position and that there will always will be disgruntled employees in such positions”.

But this week, in an interview with City Press, Maseko laughed off the speculation, saying: “My departure was totally unrelated to Shameel Joosub’s appointment. I left on June 15 and at that time I was not approached about the CEO position,” said Maseko.

Gilmore said: “Joosub’s appointment took the market by surprise as he is a relative unknown in the South
African sense.

However, the appointment is refreshing and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table, and the competition and innovations that he will come along with.”

Vodafone’s yearly financial results for the year ended March 31 2012 — the first year Joosub was CEO of the Spanish business — show that service revenues at the subsidiary declined by 9.4% and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) plunged by 24.9%.

Ebitda margins declined by five percentage points compared to the previous financial year.

Adjusted operating profit fell by 39.2%, from £915 million to £566 million (R11.7 billion to R7.2 billion).

Vodafone blamed the poor performance in Spain on “intense competition, continuing economic weakness and high unemployment during the year, which had driven customers to reduce or optimise their spending on tariffs”.

However, Vodafone Spain added a net 89 000 customers, taking its subscriber base to 17.7 million, as a result of “more competitive tariffs and a focus on improving the retention of higher-value customers”.

It also grew revenue from its fixed-line business by 7.3%. Mobile data revenues increased by 18.4%.

The Vodacom share price fell very slightly – by 0.1% on the JSE at the time of the announcement and closed at R95.90 at the end of this week.

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