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Svanberg to leave Ericsson, become BP chairman

26 июня 2009

L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Sweden's largest company and the world's largest telecommunications network equipment maker by sales, said Thursday that Chief Executive Carl-Henric Svanberg is leaving his position to become chairman of British oil giant BP PLC.

Current Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Hans Vestberg, will replace Svanberg when he steps down Jan. 1, 2010, and is expected to leave Ericsson's strategy unchanged.

Svanberg, 57 years old, will retain his shares in the company and remain on the Ericsson board, and major shareholders Investor and Industrivarden have said they want him to remain as a board member long-term.

Vestberg, 44, was appointed chief financial officer in 2007, having been at the company for 18 years in management positions in China, Sweden, Chile, Brazil, the U.S. and Mexico.

Ericsson Chairman Michael Treschow said that while the company would continue on the same strategic path, it needs to become stronger in services and running networks.

"Organic growth will be the basis for our business going forward, with bolt-on acquisitions where needed. We're also still aiming for a turnaround in our handset joint venture Sony Ericsson," Treschow said at a press conference.

He also said that the company will start to look for a new CFO but it's too early to identify a replacement.

Ericsson, in common with rivals such as Alcatel Lucent SA and Nokia Siemens Networks faces the challenges of slowing network growth in mature markets, particularly as network operators such as Vodafone Group PLC trim capital expenditure due to the economic downturn. It also faces increased competition from Chinese vendors such as Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp who manufacture kit at a cheaper price, even as China remains a key growth market.

Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson, Ericsson's mobile handset joint venture with Sony Corp. of Japan has struggled to keep pace with the advances made by rivals such as U.S. Apple Inc. with its iPhone, market leader Nokia Corp. of Finland and Korean makers Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.

Svanberg joined Ericsson in April 2003 after servings as CEO of Swedish lock-maker Assa Abloy AB for nine years.

In autumn 2007, Ericsson issued a surprise profit warning two weeks after an giving an upbeat outlook at an analysts' day, the resulting share slide wiping nearly $16 billion off its market capitalization and raising questions about the market's confidence in management.

Svanberg said at the time he had "no hints whatsoever" about the poor performance, which he attributed largely to a lack of investment by operators in network upgrades.

Shortly after the profit warning, then-CFO Karl-Henrik Sundstroem resigned and was replaced by Vestberg.

Svanberg's departure "isn't an enormous surprise as there has been talk of Vestberg succeeding for some time, and I get the feeling he's been groomed for the role," said Nomura technology specialist Richard Windsor. Nomura has a buy rating on Ericsson and SEK96 target price.

"I also get the feeling that the market has never really forgiven Svanberg for the events in September 2007 which is when the company had a very bullish analyst day followed by a horrible profit warning just a couple of weeks later. I think this transition may help the market put that issue to bed," he said.

Windsor added that Vestberg is "quite well-liked and relatively approachable," which should go over well with the market.

There was a muted response to the news from investors and at 0857 GMT, Ericsson shares in Stockholm traded down SEK0.30, or 0.4%, at SEK76.40, in line with the broader market. The stock has gained 30% since the start of the year.


Источник: Total Telecom

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