TeliaSonera sacks chief executive

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera, the biggest in northern Europe, said on Tuesday it had sacked its chief executive Anders Igel and would appoint a new head to improve its commercial drive.

“When assessing TeliaSonera’s strategic options going forward, the board concluded that the company is entering a new phase and will benefit from a new leadership,” the company said in a statement.

“To further improve the spirit and commercial drive in the organization, TeliaSonera needs a strong a motivating leadership focused on growth, restructuring and value enhancement,” it said.

Igel, who has served as president and CEO since 2002 when Sweden’s Telia and Finland’s Sonera merged, will leave office on July 31st.

The current chief financial officer, Kim Ignatius, will serve as acting chief executive until a replacement is found.

TeliaSonera’s share price rose on the news, gaining 3.33 percent to 51.25 kronor in opening trading on the Stockholm stock exchange.

Telecom analyst Helena Nordman-Knutsson at Ohman Fondkommission said the announcement was expected.

“Chief executives have different roles in different phases. A major clean-up job has been done and Igel has done a good job there. Now the company is entering a new phase and for that a new leader is needed,” she told Swedish news agency TT.

TeliaSonera posted strong first-quarter earnings boosted by mobile telephony but saw its margins slide.

“I am satisfied with the top-line growth and the bottom line but I am concerned about the margin within Broadband Services,” Igel said at the time.

In the first three months of the year, the company reported a 2.9-percent drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to 7.58 billion kronor ($1.08 billion) while margins fell from 35.6 to 33.4 percent.

The Swedish state is the biggest shareholder in TeliaSonera with 37.3 percent. The Finnish state holds 13.7 percent.

The Swedish state sold an eight-percent stake in TeliaSonera in May, yielding 18 billion kronor (2.67 billion dollars, 1.97 billion euros), as part of the centre-right government’s privatization plans.


‘Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has been accused of “rotten” business dealings in Azerbaijan, following a separate bribery scandal in Uzbekistan.

'Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera
A TeliaSonera conference in Stockholm last year. Photo: TT

Folksam, which is one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden, has accused the firm of “systematic cheating”, after it emerged that TeliaSonera’s subsidiary in Azerbaijan had ties with the family of Ilham Aliyev, the Arab nation’s leader.

It has been claimed that the dictator’s daughters were shareholders of TeliaSonera's subsidiary Azertel, via a connected company based in Panama.

“It is distressing that in a large Swedish company…people thought that cheating would pay off in the long run,” Carina Lundberg Markow, one of Folksam’s managers told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

She criticized TeliaSonera for failing to act “in an honest and open way” when entering new markets.

“Instead, they choose to pay for success,” she added.

TeliaSonera is one of the biggest telecom operators in the Nordic and Baltic countries and also operates in several emerging markets in Eurasia including Russia and Turkey, as well as Spain. The Swedish state owns 37.3 percent of the company.

Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler is already investigating claims of unethical business practices in Uzbekistan and told TT he had also been given new information concerning potential bribery in Azerbaijan.

The company has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation, handing over what Stetler describes as “extensive information” about “the terms and conditions in Eurasian countries”.

Stetler said he was unable to discuss how he had responded to the information. But calls are growing for TeliaSonera to release a public report about its business dealings.

“Now it is extremely important to create transparency,” said Lundberg Markow.

“This shows the importance of having a set of values when doing business in complex markets or countries,” she added.

TeliaSonera and Norwegian rival Telenor recently merged their operations in Denmark, while the telecoms giant last year purchased rival Tele2's Norwegian division for 5.1 kronor.