Vodafone Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Vittorio Colao is leaving after a decade of retreating from aggressive global growth in favor of the European market, handing the reins to company veteran Nick Read.
Colao, 56, will depart from the world’s second-largest mobile carrier in October and Read, the 53-year-old chief financial officer, will take over. Vodafone made the surprise announcement as it reported earnings and predicted potentially slower growth ahead on competitive pressures in Italy and Spain, causing the stock to drop the most since February.
The Italian executive leaves Read to see through Vodafone’s $22-billion agreement last week to acquire cable assets from Liberty Global Plc, which rounds out Colao’s reshaping of the Newbury, England-based company into a predominantly European carrier. The purchase gives Colao a major expansion for Vodafone, following years of deals to pull out of markets his predecessors pursued for growth.
“Now is the right time to begin the transition,” Colao said on a call with reporters. “The chapter that Vodafone is now starting to write is a completely new chapter,” he said, pointing to the Liberty deal and a pending merger of Vodafone’s India business with Idea Cellular Ltd.
While the precise timing couldn’t have been anticipated, the handover to Read is being seen as natural by analysts and will give investors a familiar face. Before CFO, the Briton had previous roles heading up the company’s emerging markets and UK divisions. Margherita Della Valle, currently deputy CFO, will succeed Read as CFO.
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.