Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao will step down in October after 10 years in which he reshaped the world’s second largest mobile operator into a digital communications powerhouse with a string of major deals.
Colao will be replaced by Nick Read, finance director since 2014 and long seen as the likely successor due to his role in running Vodafone’s operations in Britain and the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region.
He will take charge of a group that, under Colao, pulled back from its once brazen expansionist drive to be able to build up its European operations from a pure mobile player to a broader communications provider that offers everything from cable TV to broadband and enterprise services.
Just last week Colao, 56, struck a long-expected $21.8bn deal to buy Liberty Global’s cable TV and broadband networks in Germany and Eastern Europe.
But he will be best remembered for one of the world’s biggest deals – the $130bn sale of its joint venture holding with U.S. group Verizon.
“(Colao) has been an exemplary leader and strategic visionary who has overseen a dramatic transformation of Vodafone into a global pacesetter in converged communications, ready for the Gigabit future,” Chairman Gerard Kleisterlee said.
Vodafone is also merging its operations in the highly competitive Indian mobile market with Idea Cellular.
In Read, investors will get a new chief executive long groomed for the job.
Having joined Vodafone in 2001 he has held a number of roles including sitting on the boards of the company’s listed operations in Africa and Qatar, its subsidiaries in India and Egypt and its joint venture in Australia.
“Nick has been the co-architect of the Group’s strategy together with Vittorio,” Kleisterlee said.
Read will be replaced by his deputy since 2015, Margherita Della Valle. The Italian has previously held other financial and marketing roles within the group after she joined Omnitel Pronto Italia – which later became Vodafone Italy – in 1994.
The announcement came as the company reported a 1.4pc rise in organic service revenue for its fourth quarter, beating analyst forecasts of a 1.1pc rise.
Full year core earnings rose 11.8pc to €14.7bn, beating guidance for “around 10 percent” organic growth and just ahead of analyst forecasts of €14.6bn.
For 2019, the group forecast organic adjusted core earnings growth of between 1 and 5 percent, and free cash flow before spectrum costs of at least €5.2bn, slightly down on the 2018 number of €5.4bn.