Report: Civil servant Sharon White seen as favourite to head Ofcom

Sharon White, the first woman to be appointed as a permanent secretary at the UK Treasury, is tipped to be in line to replace Ed Richards at the helm of UK communications regulator Ofcom.

According to Sky News, which cited unnamed sources, White has been recommended to the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid as Ofcom's new chief executive, although Javid has not yet ratified the appointment.

Ofcom has been seeking a new CEO since Ed Richards said he would step down from the position at the end of 2014. The executive search process to appoint a replacement is being led by Zygos Partnership, and the post was advertised nationally. Ofcom previously said it planned to complete the recruitment process early in 2015.

If appointed as the successor to Richards, White would take over the leadership of the UK regulator at a time of major upheaval in the country's communications industries. Not only is the telecoms industry on the brink of potential consolidation, but the lines are also blurring between telecoms and broadcasting.

For example, BT is in talks with Telefónica over a possible acquisition of its O2 UK mobile business, while Orange and Deutsche Telekom have also confirmed they are in discussions with BT over a potential takeover of EE. Hutchison Whampoa is also rumoured to be assessing a bid for one of the two mobile operators.

Orange CEO Stephane Richard last week said he expected BT to make a decision on which operator to pursue before Christmas, Reuters reported.

Moves by BT and rival fixed operator TalkTalk to offer mobile services as part of a quad-play strategy have, in turn, prompted speculation that Vodafone is eyeing cable operator Liberty Global to boost its own convergence ambitions in the UK. Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has since played down the chances of a Liberty Global deal.

BSkyB has also reportedly hired an adviser to explore possible deals that could also allow the broadcasting group to take part in consolidation of the UK telecoms market.

For more:
- see this Sky News article
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

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