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NII Holdings Chairman Becomes Interim CEO

NII Holdings Inc. (NIHD), the wireless carrier that sells service under the Nextel brand in Latin America, named Chairman Steven Shindler as interim chief executive officer, replacing Steven Dussek.

Shindler, who previously served as the company’s CEO from 2000 to 2008, is retaking the role effective immediately. Dussek, meanwhile, is leaving the Reston, Virginia-based company to “pursue other opportunities,” NII Holdings said.

The company has posted losses in four of the last five quarters, and its average revenue per user dropped almost $12 to $37 last quarter. With Shindler back in charge, NII Holdings may have a shot of rekindling the success that the company enjoyed over the previous decade, said Chris King, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp. in Baltimore.

“Shindler brings a stellar reputation to the CEO slot once again,” King said in a note. “During that time frame, NII executed almost flawlessly, in our view, delivering strong growth and solid metrics consistently.”

The company said it will begin a search for a permanent replacement. Before his last stint as NII Holdings’ CEO, Shindler served as chief financial officer for Nextel Communications. He also was a managing director at Toronto- Dominion Bank, where he raised capital for wireless companies.

NII Holdings rose 6 percent to $6.32 at the close in New York. The shares have declined 70 percent this year, following a 52 percent drop in 2011.

Network Expansion

NII Holdings has been trying to add network capacity in Brazil and is refocusing on more lucrative customers. The company also is expanding its third-generation wireless network. It recently rolled out 3G in Mexico, its second-largest market, and is working to introduce it in Brazil, its biggest market, to keep customers from defecting to America Movil SAB and Telefonica SA, which already have the technology.

“In this new role, I will focus my attention on the build- out of our 3G network, high-quality subscriber growth, key financial metrics including revenue and margins, and providing a quality product and superior customer experience,” Shindler said in the statement.

The company said last month that its third-quarter net loss widened to $82.4 million, or 48 cents a share, compared with a break-even quarter a year earlier. Analysts had estimated a loss of 28 cents on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales dropped 15 percent to $1.42 billion, missing the $1.49 billion projection.

NII Holdings plans to outline its strategy when it delivers fourth-quarter results in February.

“We believe Shindler, given time to get his arms around the current operations, is likely to be far more engaging with investors,” King said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nick Turner in New York at nturner7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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