Russia’s VimpelCom Wireless Telecom Hires French CEO Jean-Yves Charlier

Posted: March 18, 2015 in Econ 101, Free Trade, Technology and Energy

SOURCE: http://www.wsj.com/articles/vimpelcom-names-former-sfr-head-jean-yves-charlier-as-ceo-1426242910

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VimpelCom Names Former SFR Head Jean-Yves Charlier as CEO

Russian mobile operator is replacing Jo Lunder, who has been at the helm for nearly four years

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Jean-Yves Charlier on Friday was named chief executive of Russian mobile operator VimpelCom. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Jean-Yves Charlier on Friday was named chief executive of Russian mobile operator VimpelCom. Photo: Reuters

LONDON—VimpelCom Ltd. on Friday named Jean-Yves Charlier as its next chief executive, as the world’s sixth-largest mobile telecommunications carrier turns to the former head of French telecom giant SFR to reverse flagging revenue in Russia and other key wireless markets.

Mr. Charlier will replace Jo Lunder, who is stepping down as CEO next month after four years at the helm of the Russian operator, VimpelCom said in a statement.

Mr. Lunder, who joined VimpelCom in 1999 and become CEO in July 2011, will serve as an advisor until July 13 before pursuing opportunities in private equity.

Mr. Charlier’s appointment comes as Russia’s third-largest mobile operator attempts to recover from a trying 2014, when it posted a full-year net loss of $691 million after it was hit by unfavorable foreign exchange movements in Russia and Ukraine and one-off costs related to refinancing its Wind unit in Italy. Revenue fell 13%, as the ruble’s depreciation against the U.S. dollar hit the group’s trading.

It warned that currency risks amid commodity markets roiled by sinking oil prices, as well as regional geopolitical tension between Russia and Ukraine, pose a tough outlook for the U.S.-listed and Amsterdam-headquartered group.

Under Mr. Charlier’s leadership, SFR—the second-largest telecom operator in France by the number of subscribers—was bought last year by Altice SA, billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Luxembourg-based telecommunications holding company, from media giant Vivendi SA in a deal worth $23 billion. Mr. Drahi then merged the phone carrier with cable operator Numericable.

Previously, Mr. Charlier worked at Promethean World PLC, a U.K.-based company that makes educational technology products, information technology network group Colt, as well as holding a senior executive position with BT Group PLC.

Mr. Charlier wasn’t available for comment.

VimpelCom Chairman Alexey Reznikovich said the company, which makes over $20 billion in annual revenue, saw a period of “rapid growth and expansion” under the leadership of Mr. Lunder.

A spokesman for the operator said Mr. Lund told the company’s board late last year that he didn’t intend to renew his contract, leading to a search for his successor. “It was genuinely Jo’s decision,” the spokesman said.

In December last year, Telenor ASA’s Chief Executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas stepped down from the board of VimpelCom, citing a potential conflict of interest amid a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged corruption related to the company’s business in Uzbekistan. Telenor holds 33% of the shares and 43% of the voting rights of VimpelCom. Telenor said at the time as a minority stake holder it would seek to protect its interest in the probe, and Mr. Baksaas’ resignation would “eliminate any potential conflict of interest under the circumstances.”

VimpelCom last month said it is complying with requests from lawmakers and regulators into the probe.

“[Mr. Lunder’s] decision [to step down] wasn’t taken in the context of the investigation,” said VimpelCom’s spokesman.

Mr. Lunder wasn’t available for comment.

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