Vodafone Said to Appoint Antonio Coimbra to Lead Spain Unit

Vodafone Group Plc named Antonio Coimbra as chief executive officer of its Spanish unit, replacing Shameel Joosub, who has been appointed chief of the mobile-phone company’s South African business, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The appointment of Coimbra, who has been at Vodafone in Portugal since 1992 and CEO of the Portuguese operations since 2009, will become effective Sept. 1, the person said, asking not to be identified before an announcement. Francisco Roman will continue as Vodafone chairman in Spain and Mario Vaz, a director in Portugal, has been named CEO of the unit, the person said.

Coimbra will need to revive dropping sales in Spain as local consumers and companies cut spending amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Local operators including Telefonica SA, Spain’s largest phone company, and Vodafone also face higher competition from cheaper rivals such as Jazztel Plc. Vodafone’s operating earnings in Spain plummeted 24 percent last year, the worst performance of all European units.

The Spanish economy, which contracted for six quarters beginning in 2008, entered a second recession in the first quarter of 2012 after growing less than 1 percent last year. The deterioration probably intensified in the second quarter, the Bank of Spain said on June 27. The International Monetary Fund and the European Union expect the economy to shrink 1.8 percent in 2012. Unemployment has reached 24 percent, the highest in the EU.

Client Losses

Vodafone lost more than 189,000 mobile customers in Spain in April, the biggest lost by an operator after Telefonica, bringing its market share down to 28.4 percent from 28.6 percent in March, according to Spanish regulator CMT. Vodafone is Spain’s second-biggest operator with about 17.7 million customers.

The stock today dropped 0.1 percent to 180.35 pence as of 10:44 a.m. in London, valuing Vodafone at 89 billion pounds ($139 billion).

Vodafone last month split its business in Europe, its largest market by sales, into two divisions, appointing Philipp Humm and Paolo Bertoluzzo to head the regional units as the world’s second-largest mobile phone company revamps its structure.

The reorganization is the third change to the operating structure since 2008. The revamp allows Newbury, England-based Vodafone to set out potential succession candidates to CEO Vittorio Colao, people familiar with the matter said in May.

In South Africa, Joosub will become co-CEO of Vodafone-controlled Vodacom Group Ltd. in September as Pieter Uys resigned after four years.

Uys, who has worked at Vodacom since the company started in 1993, became CEO in October 2008. Joosub was managing director of Vodacom’s South African unit at that time. He was named as CEO of Vodafone’s Spanish unit in December 2010.

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