MTN boss to quit telco in March next year

Phuthuma Nhleko to stand down as CEO of South Africa-based telco this time next year, after eight years in charge

Tags: MTN GroupSouth Africa
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MTN boss to quit telco in March next year MTN CEO Phuthuma Nhleko said he wants to move on to the next phase of his career.
By  George Bevir Published  March 1, 2010

The CEO of South Africa-based telecom group MTN has announced that he will leave the company in March next year.

"I have given this decision very careful consideration. I feel it is the right time to secure the next generation of leadership for the group - and the right time for me personally to start thinking about the next phase of my career," Phuthuma Nhleko said in a statement to the Johannesburg stock exchange today.

Nhleko, who has been at the helm of the operator for eight years, presided over the group's expansion across the Middle East and Africa, with MTN now present in more than 24 countries.

Most recently, Nhleko was involved in ill-fated talks with India's Bharti Airtel regarding a possible merger, with the second attempt at a tie-up between the two telcos stumbling over the issue of corporate structure.

"Over the coming months, I will continue to focus my full attention on delivering on the group's strategic priorities and on ensuring a thorough handover to my successor," Nhleko said.

The handover to a new CEO is unlikely to be problematic, according to Enda Hardiman, managing partner at consultancy firm Hardiman Telecommunications, who said Nhleko had shepherded MTN to significant international prominence.

"I do not doubt that he will manage the transition to his successor in smooth and professional manner," Hardiman said. 

"Any change of CEO will of course entail a change of style.  The strategic options for MTN are however clear;  MTN is well placed to be one of the key poles of consolidation as such occurs across Africa, and further expansion in the Middle East is also possible," Hardiman added. 

Alternatively, MTN could become the Africa and Middle East arm of a larger global group, Hardiman said.

"MTN is thus an attractive organisation both from a perspective of opportunities for organic growth and as a merger target.  My own expectation is that the organisation will remain independent in the medium term."

So far this year, Nhleko is the region's second high-profile telecom CEO to announce that he will part company with his employer, following Zain CEO Saad Al-Barrak's resignation last month.

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