Vivendi has appointed its head of telecommunications, Jean-Yves Charlier, as the CEO of SFR in a move that strengthens the leadership of the French operator ahead of a possible initial public offering.
The appointment of Charlier also means that Vivendi has split the roles of CEO and chairman, with former CEO Stéphane Roussel remaining as chairman. Charlier will head up a new six-member executive board, which also includes Sandrine Dufour as SFR's new CFO. Dufour had previously been Vivendi's head of innovation and deputy CFO, according to Reuters.
Vivendi has been following a strategy of selling off its various telecoms businesses in order to focus on its media activities. The French group is already pursuing the sale of its 53 per cent stake in Maroc Telecom, and has received bids from Dubai-based Etisalat and Qatari operator Ooredoo.
SFR, which like rivals France Telecom Orange and Bouygues Telecom has been struggling with competitive pressures on the French mobile market following the arrival of low-cost operator Free Mobile in January 2012, is expected to be next in line after Maroc Telecom. An IPO has been mooted as a possible option. However, Vivendi has previously stressed that it wants to strengthen SFR's business first.
Citing internal messages to employees, Bloomberg reported that both Roussel and Charlier described the change as a "reinforcement" of the management team at SFR, and plan to speed up the transformation of the operator in the coming months.
France's incumbent operators have struggled to cope with Free Mobile's voice subscription of just €2 a month, as well as plans including voice, texts and data for €19.95 a month.
Like its rivals, SFR has been forced to cut its mobile prices and is banking on LTE services and converged offerings of fixed and mobile services to attract and retain subscribers and drive growth.
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