Former Vodacom SA MD finds new telco home in Prague

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Former Vodacom South Africa MD Balesh Sharma.
Former Vodacom South Africa MD Balesh Sharma.

Balesh Sharma, former Vodacom SA managing director, is new group CEO of PPF Telecom in Czech Republic.

Sharma, who resigned from Vodacom earlier this year, announced his next big move to the Prague-headquartered telecoms group yesterday.

The respected telecoms executive left Vodafone and Vodacom Group after a two-decade-long career, “to pursue an external opportunity in Europe, with effect from 30 June”, as per the statement at the time of his resignation.

He has since been replaced by Sitho Mdlalose as managing director of Vodacom South Africa, effective 1 July.

Yesterday, Sharma wrote on his LinkedIn page: “I’m delighted to share with you that in July 2022, I will be returning to the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic to head the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) division as group chief executive of PPF Telecom, within the privately-held PPF Group.”

PPF Group is a diversified investment company founded in Prague in 1991, and now operates in 25 countries across Europe, North America and Asia.

The group holds €40 billion in assets and employs 82 000 people. The group’s investments are spread over many areas, including financial services, telecommunications, media, biotechnology, real estate and engineering.

According to Sharma, TMT accounts for nearly a third of PPF Group’s holdings.

“The telecoms businesses include operators O2 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia; Yettel in Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia; and the CETIN Group telco infrastructure services providers in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia.

“PPF’s media business is centred around CME, which owns and operates television broadcasters in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and soon in Croatia too. So, as you can see, it is a tremendous opportunity for me, to bring my experience and knowledge to PPF's large and growing TMT group.

“I can’t wait to start working with these businesses, and I’m excited by the challenge of developing and expanding them further, and on strengthening our relationships with our customers across the geographic footprint and multiple verticals by delivering great experience and value.”

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