Zain plans 'comprehensive' management restructuring

"Significant redundancies" anticipated as Kuwaiti telco Zain prepares for life without majority of its African assets

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Zain plans 'comprehensive' management restructuring Zain recently agreed to sell 15 of its African operators to India's Bharti Airtel, dramatically reducing the size of the group and leaving it with just two operators in Africa. (Getty Images)
By  George Bevir Published  April 21, 2010

Telecom operator Zain is set to reshuffle its management team, according to the firm's CEO, with redundancies likely and staff expected to be moved out of the firm's group headquarters in Bahrain.

Zain chief executive Nabil bin Salama said in a statement yesterday that the company was undertaking a "comprehensive" restructuring of its management team "in preparation for the next phase", and in order to meet "strategic operational goals".

The Kuwaiti telco, which is headquartered in Bahrain where an estimated 350 staff are based, recently agreed to sell 15 of its African operators to India's Bharti Airtel, dramatically reducing the size of the group and leaving it with just two operators in Africa.

The African operations are looked after by a range of chief executive officers, chief operating officers, managing directors and general managers, presided over by Chris Gabriel, CEO for Zain Africa. But once the sale is finalised, in Africa, Zain will only have a presence in Sudan and Morocco.

Richard Guest, principal at executive search firm Transearch Middle East, believes that a major "right sizing" of the telco will now occur.

"It is highly likely that the existing group structure will be drastically downsized," he said.

"Senior roles within Zain Africa will require the post holders to relocate to Nairobi while those remaining in the resulting Zain Middle East group structure will return to Kuwait...significant redundancies will be necessary to accommodate the right sizing."

Frost and Sullivan consultant for the MENA region Lindsey McDonald, said changes at a group level would make sense because there will be less administration to take care of.

"But I wouldn't say that we're going to see hundreds or thousands across the board lose their jobs," she said. "Maybe at corporate level you would see redundancies, but I wouldn't expect to see huge redundancies at op co level.

"Those [African operators that will be sold to Bharti] are companies in their own right, and as far as I know, Zain has been very strict to make sure they are profitable in their own right - for example you wouldn't have Nigeria supporting Kenya."

McDonald said she expected to see a greater emphasis on the company's remaining assets in the Middle East.

"One reason for the sale was to concentrate on Middle East, so we would expect to see the company retain core expertise and resources there," she added.

Earlier this month Zain sidelined the head of the firm's Iraq operation, moving former CEO Ali Al Dahwi to an advisory role, with the telco's chief financial officer taking temporary control of the telco's Iraqi operation.

The reorganisation of Zain's executive team began when Saad Al Barrak resigned as group CEO at the start of the year, following the major shareholders' decision to sell the group's African assets, which ran contrary to Al Barrak's ambition to turn the Kuwait- based telecom group into a major global player.

Al Barrak, who has so far remained as CEO of Zain Saudi Arabia, was replaced by Bin Salamah, Kuwait's former Minister of Communication, Electricity and Water, in February.

Barrak Al-Sabeeh, who has the title of Zain's CEO of business development, government and international relations, was appointed Bin Salamah's "on-the-ground representative" in Iraq.

3258 days ago

Ahmad Haleem who left Wataniya and later Qtel after they bought out the former, is a part of Zain. One must remember that he was the first "mover & shaker" in the market with Wataniya's acquisition of 50% of Tunisiana. It wouldn't be surprising if he was appointed CEO

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