Telia gets new boss

Sweden and Finland's largest telecoms operator, TeliaSonera, has appointed Lars Nyberg as its CEO.

Nyberg, who was credited with reviving the fortunes of US company National Cash Register in the mid-nineties and who has also worked for AT&T, was described as a “visionary leader” by TeliaSonera’s chairman on Friday.

Nyberg takes over after Anders Igel, who was fired in mid-June. A relative unknown in Sweden, he moved back from the US in 2003, since when he has sat on a number of company boards.

“He is admired and well-known in the United States,” said chairman Tom von Weyman.

“Among his most important qualities are his ability to enthuse people and to bring them along with him. The fact that he could turn around a company on the edge of bankruptcy is perhaps not his most important attribute in this context, but it’s not bad to know that he can lead a company at a time of change,” Weyman said.

Nyberg is in full agreement with TeliaSonera’s board about the future direction of the company, Weyman said.

The announcement came as Telia revealed its second-quarter results, which held few surprises for investors. Turnover rose 5 percent to 23.9 billion kronor, but profits were slightly lower than expected. The company’s pre-tax profits stood at 5.6 billion kronor, compared to 6.1 billion in the same period last year. The number of subscriptions rose to 103.4 million.

Acting CEO and finance director Kim Ignatius said he was pleased with the results, and noted that the company had grown at a record rate in the first six months of the year. Margins had been affected by increased spending on networks and on advertising.

“The competitive situation has become a bit tougher and we want to ensure that we grow in the future as well. That’s why we’ve put a further 200 million kronor into advertising,” he said.


‘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.