Vodafone Chief Executive Read To Step Down

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read. Image credit: Vodafone

Vodafone chief Nick Read to step down at end of month after four years with finance director taking over in interim, as stock slump continues

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read is to step down at the end of this month amidst turbulence this year that has seen the company’s share price drop by nearly half its value compared to when he took the reins in October 2018.

The firm’s chief financial officer Margherita Della Valle is to take over from Read on an interim basis while the search for a permanent replacement is carried out.

Last month Vodafone cut its full-year profit forecast, saying the drop was due to higher energy costs and weakness in Italy, Spain and particularly Germany, which accounts for about 30 percent of Vodafone’s overall revenues.

“I agreed with the board that now is the right moment to hand over to a new leader who can build on Vodafone’s strengths and capture the significant opportunities ahead,” Read said in a Monday statement.

Investor pressure

Della Valle is to continue in her role as chief financial officer while she runs the company, Vodafone said.

She was chosen to “accelerate the execution of the company’s strategy to improve operational performance and deliver shareholder value”, the company said.

Read, who is to remain as an adviser to the board until March, led Vodafone through the pandemic, “ensuring that our customers remained connected with their families and businesses”, said Vodafone chair Jean-François van Boxmeer.

Under pressure from activist investors to focus Vodafone’s sprawling businesses Read reached a number of deals including one in November to sell off up to 50 percent of Vodafone’s 14.8 billion euro (£12.67bn) masts business.

Stock slump

But investors have been hard to convince and Vodafone’s stock has dropped 19 percent this year. It is more than 40 percent down compared to October 2018.

Analysts Jeffries questioned whether the next chief executive would be able to do better, saying Vodafone “faces intractable headwinds”.