Addio Vittorio Colao. The boss of Vodafone has just agreed an €18.4bn (£16.1bn) to buy the German and eastern European cable networks owned by America’s Liberty Global, but will leave it to his successor, finance chief Nick Read, to make the deal fly. If, that is, regulators allow him to.
The urbane Italian, who may have a future in politics, has radically reshaped the business in his time at the helm, pulling back in some areas, notably the US with a $130bn (£96bn) exit from its US joint venture with Verizon, while expanding in others.
Vodafone trumpeted that it has, under hin, been “transformed“ from “a consumer focussed 2G/3G mobile operator” to “one of the world’s leading converged communications companies”. Whatever that means.
It is more focussed on Europe, it has a wider spread of operations, and it has a lot more customers. More than 536m in 25 countries, nearly twice the number Mr Colao started with. Minority shareholdings were sensibly ditched in favour of operations that Vodafone controls, or has joint control over.
The Liberty deal is just the latest in a string of them done under Mr Colao and he has been much praised for his tactical skill on that front.
He made sure his investors got a nice payout from the US withdrawal, but the share price has otherwise done little during his tenure.
Vodafone has been doing a lot of running. It’s a busy corporate beast that makes nice money for investment banks and other deal advisors. The results are yet to show.
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For customers the picture is still more equivocal. Vodafone could certainly do with a bit more oomph in its home market, where its reputation is cloudy. Just last week OfCom released the results of a detailed survey of service quality. Vodafone achieved the lowest overall score with customers least likely to recommend it to their friends. That speaks volumes.
Mr Read has worked at various parts of the group, including running the UK operations. He’s been at Mr Colao’s side since joining the board as finance chief four years ago.
He represents continuity that investors will likely welcome, and promises to “deliver the benefits” benefits of the work he and Mr Colao have done in reshaping the business to both them and his customers. He has some hard work to do.