Decision imminent on future of Orange CEO

The board of France Telecom Orange will reach a decision on the future of CEO Stephane Richard as soon as Monday, according to latest statements from French President Francois Hollande.

"We will make our decision known on Monday," Hollande told journalists at a media briefing, according to Reuters. "It will be made on the basis of one thing: the interest of the company, its workers and clients."

Unnamed sources close to the French operator also told Reuters that government views would probably determine the outcome of Monday's board meeting, even though the state only holds three of the 15 seats on the management board. The fourth-largest operator in Europe is 27 per cent owned by the French state.

On Wednesday, Richard was placed under investigation for his role in an arbitration case in 2008 that resulted in a €285 million ($380 million) payout to businessman Bernard Tapie. Richard has denied any wrongdoing, and has so far appeared to have had the support of his company.

Investors have also been relatively unconcerned by issue so far, mainly because they are more concerned about other market issues that are affecting the operator's performance.

"I'm worried about the future of Orange, but not because the CEO is under investigation," Christian Jimenez, who runs Diamant Bleu Gestion, whose funds hold France Telecom shares, told Reuters. "It's getting harder and harder for Orange to profit from the major investments it makes in its networks."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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