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New leadership takes over MTN

Rob Shuter, MTN group president and CEO.

Rob Shuter, MTN group president and CEO.

MTN's top management is getting a facelift today, as Rob Shuter takes up his new role as group CEO and president, and Godfrey Motsa starts as SA CEO. This as the embattled telecoms operator tries to put a challenging 18 months behind it.

Shuter joins MTN after fulfilling his responsibilities as CEO of the European cluster at the Vodafone group and brings extensive experience in the telecoms sector in Africa and Europe, as well as in financial services. He was previously CEO of Vodafone Netherlands, CFO of the Vodacom group and held senior management roles at Standard Bank and Nedbank.

Today signals a number of senior management changes at the pan-African telco. As Shuter comes in, current executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko reverts back to his role of non-executive chairman. He says he will stay in this role until no later than December 2018, when he plans to step down.

Nhleko took over as executive chair in an interim capacity in early November 2015 after former group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigned from the post.

His resignation came just two weeks after the company announced it faced a $5.2 billion (R71 billion at the time) fine from the Nigerian Communications Commission for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards in the country. In June 2016, after months of negotiations, MTN agreed to pay $1.671 billion (R25 billion at the time) to the federal government of Nigeria, in six instalments over three years, to settle the fine.

However, the damage caused by the fine will likely linger for some time and has already had a heavy impact on the group's financial results for the 2015 and 2016 financial years. Earlier this month, Nhleko called 2016 the "most challenging year in the company's 22-year history" as the group reported a full-year headline loss per share of 77c, for the year ended 31 December, compared to headline earnings per share of 746c a year ago. This despite growing group subscribers by over 3% to 240.4 million across its 22 operations in Africa and the Middle East.

Familiar faces

MTN South Africa also has a new CEO starting today, as Godfrey Motsa takes over from Mteto Nyati, who is moving on to take up the role of Altron CEO. Motsa is moving from his role as VP of MTN's South and East Africa (SEA) region. He was previously chief officer of the consumer business unit at Vodacom and in the past also occupied the positions of CEO of Vodacom Lesotho and Vodacom DRC.

Motsa and Shuter were colleagues at Vodacom and Shuter says he is delighted Motsa is taking up the top role in SA because they have "worked well together in the past".

MTN's new group CFO Ralph Mupita will start early next month, leaving his post as chief executive of Old Mutual Emerging Markets. MTN says he brings 16 years of financial services experience as well as expertise in engineering. The role became available when former CFO Brett Goschen left the telecoms operator at the end of September 2016 "to pursue other interests". Gunter Engling, currently acting CFO, will assume the position of deputy CFO with effect from 3 April, reporting to Mupita. 

Other recent appointments include Jens Schulte-Bockum, who joined the group on 16 January as group COO, replacing the retiring Jyoti Desai. Schulte-Bockum is another Vodafone hire, with his last senior role being CEO of Vodafone Germany between 2012 and 2015.

MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.

MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.

With the post of VP of the SEA now open, current VP of the West and Central Africa region, Karl Toriola, will take on the additional responsibility of the SEA region in the interim as the group searches for Motsa's replacement.

Eight other senior executives were appointed during 2016, including Babak Fouladi as CTIO, joining MTN from Vodafone Spain.

Growth targets

MTN's management changes come alongside its latest transformation initiative, Ignite, which aims to improve the group's revenue growth and accelerate the diversification of revenue streams – including more digital services. Ignite has already been launched for MTN SA and MTN Nigeria, with plans to roll it out to all operations over time.

"With a strengthened management team in place and new initiatives embarked upon, we are confident and are resolved to enhance our competitive position across our markets and meet the aggressive targets set," the group said in a statement as part of its latest financial results.

The telco said the new senior executives have the requisite skills to take MTN "into a new growth phase".

After the Nigerian debacle, the group reinstated its regional vice-president positions "to ensure an extra layer of regional, operational and governance oversight".

"At an opco level, we reviewed structures, introducing the position of chief operating officer in our large opcos to ensure increased operational oversight and coordination between commercial and technical teams is enhanced, allowing country CEOs to focus on stakeholder matters," it said.


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