May 23, 2013 2:18 pm

Vivendi telecoms chief Jean-Yves Charlier takes top job at SFR

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Vivendi has put one of its own executives in charge of SFR, France’s second-largest mobile operator by revenues, ahead of a possible initial public offering for the mobile network.

Jean-Yves Charlier, previously Vivendi’s telecommunications chief, will replace Stéphane Roussel as chief executive in a move that splits the role from that of chairman. Mr Charlier will head the six-member executive committee, and Mr Roussel will stay as chairman.

Vivendi is midway through reviewing its business, which could lead to the separation of its media and telecoms divisions. Last month the French group received two bids for its stake in Maroc Telecom, the Moroccan telecoms group, but has ruled out a fire sale of SFR.

However, the company has left the door open to a future flotation of SFR.

Jean-René Fourtou, Vivendi chairman, who ousted the previous chief executive last year, said Vivendi was “putting in place the most pertinent strategy for SFR so we would have the option of proceeding to a stock market listing”. But he said any listing would not be in the short term.

SFR’s performance in its home market of France has been hard hit after the arrival last year of a low-cost rival in the form of Iliad’s Free Mobile. The price war that followed has hit profits at the incumbent operators, although some hope that the arrival of 4G services could reinstate a premium offering.

Earnings before interest, taxation and amortisation at SFR fell 24.5 per cent in the first quarter to €702m compared with the same period in 2012.

The news comes as analysts at Macquarie told investors they believed that talks over an exit of Activision Blizzard, the games maker owned by Vivendi, were still taking place despite reports this month that they had stalled.

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