Vodafone scraps innovation unit

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

Vodafone has ditched a key plank of its restructuring plan after only six months, by dismantling the innovation unit that was responsible for plans to move beyond its mobile phone-based business in the past and sell broadband over landlines.

Vodafone said on Friday that Thomas Geitner, who in April was appointed head of its new businesses and innovation unit, would leave the group at the end of December. His business unit would be abolished, and its functions transferred to other parts of the group.

Mr Geitner, who has turned down alternative roles at Vodafone, is the latest of several board members to leave. A Vodafone spokesman insisted Mr Geitner supported the changes by explaining that the board had approved the plans.

Vodafone was rocked by allegations of boardroom infighting after it warned last year of slowing revenue growth and falling profit margins.

Arun Sarin, Vodafone’s chief executive, suffered embarrassment in July when investors holding 15 per cent of the group’s shares either voted against his re-election or abstained at its annual meeting.

The dismantling of Mr Geitner’s unit represents a significant alteration to the sweeping restructuring of Vodafone that was announced in April as a means of improving the group’s performance.

Mr Sarin then outlined the creation of three new units: Europe, emerging markets, and new businesses and innovation.

In May, Mr Sarin and Mr Geitner set out Vodafone’s plans to adopt a “mobile plus” strategy by supplying customers with broadband over landlines. Mr Geitner also outlined proposals to better integrate mobile phones with computers, and to introduce advertising- based services.

Vodafone on Friday highlighted how its operating businesses were already implementing parts of the strategy developed by the unit, such as getting people to make greater use of their mobiles in homes and offices, and supplying broadband over landlines.

It said the changes to April’s restructuring would help it execute its “mobile plus” strategy faster.

“The board is united in its view that this is the right way forward,” Vodafone said. “There have been no disagreements on the strategy and structure going forward.”

One big Vodafone investor said the changes affecting Mr Geitner’s unit smacked “of a bolder hand running the organisation”. “There is a more incisive tone at Vodafone.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.