Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao will step down in October after more than ten years at the helm of the telecoms giant.
Coloa, who became chief executive in July 2008, will be replaced by group chief financial officer Nick Read.
The company made the announcement today along its final results and comes just a week after Colao sealed a £16.1billion deal to buy US cable giant Liberty Global’s operations in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
Vodafone shares fell 3.4 per cent on the news to 200.04p.
Standing down: Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao
Vodafone chairman Gerard Kleisterlee said Colao had been ‘an exemplary leader and strategic visionary’ who had overseen ‘a dramatic transformation’ of the company.
‘Vittorio will leave as his legacy a company of great integrity with strong inclusive values that is exceptionally well-positioned for the decade ahead,’ he added.
Colao said the group’s ‘strategic transformation is nearing completion’, but said Vodafone was ‘starting to write a new chapter’.
News of his departure come as Vodafone posted a 2.2 per cent decline in full-year revenues to €45.6billion (£40.1billion), but operating profits rose to €4.3billion (£3.8billion).
Underlying earnings – the company’s preferred profit measure – rose 12 per cent on an organic basis to €14.7billion , ahead of the company’s guidance of 10 per cent organic growth.
Free cash flow rose by 34 per cent to €5.4billion, in line with the group’s guidance.
Vodafone increased the final dividend 2 per cent to 10.23 eurocents, giving a total dividend of 15.07 eurocents.
Colao’s successor, Mr Read, will be replaced by deputy chief financial officer Margherita Della Valle on July 27, which is the date of Vodafone’s annual shareholder meeting.
George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Vodafone is making reasonable underlying progress. Investors can’t complain too much when costs are heading down and underlying revenues are going up.
However, the main story is the direction of travel. Vodafone is stepping away from more exotic emerging market growth by demerging its Indian business, while simultaneously bolstering exposure to Europe through an €18.4billion deal to buy European assets from Liberty Global. That ensures the Vodafone Nick Read will take over looks very different to the one led by Vittorio Colao just a year or so ago.
‘At present, this looks to be no bad thing. The Liberty deal will come with significant cost reduction and cross-selling opportunities, and opens up new growth opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe. All the while, broad-based growth across Italy, Germany and Spain means Vodafone’s existing European markets look healthier.’