Incoming Ericsson CEO charts steady course

Hans Vestberg, who will take over as Ericsson's CEO this January, expressed confidence at maintaining the company's position as the industry's leading mobile infrastructure vendor, but said he did not plan on charting a radically different course than that of outgoing chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg.

In several interviews after the announcement  of Svanberg's departure, Vestberg came across as both a confident replacement who had been groomed to step into Svanberg's shoes and an acolyte of Svanberg's who praised his leadership. Vestberg is currently Ericsson's CFO; he first joined the company in 1991. 

He told Forbes Svanberg "has done a fantastic job," and praised Svanberg's strategy. Vestberg said he would continue the focus of building through organic growth. Yet, he said that after Ericsson reported a negative cash flow $1.9 billion in the first quarter, he had taken specific steps to remedy the situation. "I always take specific action on cash," he told Forbes. "That is the main focus."

He reiterated Ericsson's support for its handset joint venture with Sony Ericsson, and said Sony Ericsson was reworking its product portfolio. But he noted critics should remember the history of Sony Ericsson. "We were two very broken companies that came together and made a fantastic journey," Vestberg told Dow Jones Newswires.

And when it comes to the competition in the infrastructure space, Vestberg sounded confident but respectful. The market has grown more competitive, with Chinese players such as Huawei and ZTE winning more contracts, and with traditional rivals like Nokia Siemens Networks, which will acquire large wireless assets for Nortel networks, showing more clout.

"Our goal is to continue to be in the leadership. Confident? You need to respect the competition," he told the Financial Times. "The organization, Carl-Henric and I, we are determined all our efforts will be there in order to stay in the lead."

For more:
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)
- see this Forbes article
- see this FT article

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