Vodafone chief Nick Read to step down this month

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read will step down at the end of this month following a turbulent year in which the company’s share price has fallen sharply.

Read, who has led the telecoms group since 2018, will be replaced on an interim basis by Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone’s chief financial officer, while it seeks a permanent replacement.

His exit comes less than a month after Vodafone cut its full-year profit forecast, with the group pinning the blame on a weak German market. Germany accounts for about 30 per cent of the group’s revenue.

“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 statement on Monday.

The company said Della Valle would continue in her role as CFO while she runs Vodafone in the interim. Read, who has been at the group for more than two decades, will remain an adviser to the board until the end of March.

Read has struggled to convince investors of his ability to improve the group’s performance and turn around its share price. The stock has fallen 19 per cent this year compared with a 2 per cent gain in the FTSE 100. Vodafone shares were up 0.7 per cent in early trading on Monday.

Over the past 12 months, Vodafone has faced increasing pressure from activist investors to overhaul its sprawling array of businesses and ditch underperforming units.

Read struck a series of deals, including an agreement last month to sell up to 50 per cent of its €14.8bn mobile phone masts business.

Vodafone said that Della Valle would “accelerate the execution of the company’s strategy to improve operational performance and deliver shareholder value”.

Read led Vodafone through the pandemic, “ensuring that our customers remained connected with their families and businesses”, said Jean-François van Boxmeer, chair of Vodafone.

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