Van den Bergh leads hunt for BT chief

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BT on Wednesday announced that Maarten van den Bergh, former chairman of Lloyds TSB, would lead the search for the UK telecoms company’s next chairman.

Mr van den Bergh will replace Sir Anthony Greener as BT deputy chairman this October, and will supervise the search for a successor to Sir Christopher Bland, who retires as BT chairman at the company’s annual meeting next year.

Mr van den Bergh has been a non-executive director at BT since 2000, and is a member of its audit, nomination and remuneration committees. He is not a candidate to replace Sir Christopher, people close to BT said.

Mr van den Bergh will also be the BT board’s main liaison with shareholders by serving as senior independent director.

Sir Christopher said Mr van den Bergh’s extensive business experience would be invaluable “as we continue to transform our business” from “an old fashioned telco” to a “modern communications services provider”.

Mr van den Bergh is a non-executive director at British Airways and Royal Dutch Shell, and was president of the energy company’s Dutch arm.

At BT’s annual meeting on Wednesday, investors complained about the share price.

BT’s stock was worth more than £10 in 2000, but closed at 223¼p on Wednesday.

Sir Christopher, who has been chairman since 2001, also expressed frustration that the company’s improving performance was not reflected in its share price.

Falling sales from fixed- line telephone services have been offset by increasing revenues from the provision of broadband to consumers and private communications networks to companies.

In the last quarter of its 2006 fiscal year, BT reported its first rise in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in almost three years.

The company proposed a full-year dividend for 2006 of 11.9 pence per share, up 14 per cent on 2005.

Sir Christopher, noting the stock was at a two-year high, insisted it did not reflect the company’s 16 consecutive quarters of growth in underlying earnings per share.

He also tried to reassure investors after they raised media reports about the possibility of a takeover by private equity groups or another European telecoms company.

“BT is not being run in order to attract a takeover bid,” he said.

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