Ekholm takes reins as Ericsson looks to reverse course

New Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm. Image: Ericsson

Börje Ekholm took over as CEO at Ericsson today, predicting 5G will produce “massive transformation across industries” as he stepped into his new role. But it still isn’t clear how Ekholm plans to reverse the company’s slide in a brutal worldwide market for mobile telecom gear.

A longtime board member at Ericsson, Ekholm was named to the post in October, replacing ousted CEO Hans Vestberg. He hails from Investor, a major Swedish shareholder of Ericsson, but will continue to live in the U.S. as he takes the reins.

“I am very excited to assume the role as president and CEO of Ericsson, a company that I have admired for as long as I can remember,” Ekholm said in a prepared statement. “Ericsson has shaped an entire industry and led technology developments that have benefitted so many. Yet, we are only at the beginning of the mobility journey as we in coming years will see massive transformation across industries as 5G is introduced.”

Vestberg was ousted in July, less than a week after the company posted a 26% year-over-year drop in net sales during the second quarter, and Ericsson continued to struggle in the following months. The company announced plans in October to slash 3,000 jobs in its native Sweden due to weak demand, and a week later the company sent shares plunging after it reported a 14% year-over-year drop in sales. Things got worse last month on reports that Ericsson is considering cutting 1,000 more jobs in Italy after losing a key contract there.

Ekholm has yet to outline his plan to reverse Ericsson’s fortunes, although he said in October that he would likely invest more heavily in some areas of Ericsson’s business while withdrawing from others. The company has discussed plans to recruit roughly 1,000 engineers in Sweden and focus on developing new technologies to give it an edge over rivals such as Nokia and Huawei.

Mobile World Live reported that Ekholm vowed to lead Ericsson through a “period of intense change” to become an “even stronger leader” in the infrastructure market. Ericsson will also likely hone its focus on virtualized networks to meet increasing carrier demand, said Iain Gillott, president of iGR.

“I think (Ekholm’s) top priority is to change Ericsson’s image/strategy/direction so it is fully on-board with virtualization,” Gillott told FierceWireless via email. “Every other word should be ‘virtualized’—vRAN, edge computing, etc., etc.”