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Swisscom Names Schaeppi CEO to Succeed Schloter

Swisscom AG Chief Executive Officer Urs Schaeppi
Urs Schaeppi, head of the Swiss business, has been interim CEO since his predecessor’s suspected suicide. Source: Swisscom AG via Bloomberg

Swisscom AG, Switzerland’s biggest phone company, named internal candidate Urs Schaeppi chief executive officer to succeed Carsten Schloter, who died in July.

Schaeppi, head of the Swiss business, has been interim CEO since his predecessor’s suspected suicide. The appointment is effective immediately, the Bern-based company said today.

The 15-year company veteran will have to come up with a strategy to combat sluggish consumer demand that’s pushing phone bills down across Europe and in Switzerland. Schaeppi, 53, also must define the future role of Fastweb SpA, the Italian fixed-line company that Swisscom took over in 2007.

“There is no simple solution for Fastweb and Swisscom faces a dilemma,” Jacques De Greling, an analyst at Natixis Securities in Paris, said in a phone interview. “Selling it would mean admitting to a failure, and Fastweb has been one so far. If they could get a good price for it, a sale wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Under Schloter, Swisscom bought Fastweb for 4.6 billion euros ($6.2 billion), seeking to make up for slowing growth in Switzerland, where it made 80 percent of its revenue last year. The deal failed to reverse Swisscom’s fortunes, and the company had its first quarterly loss in about a decade in 2011 due to a 1.2 billion-franc ($1.3 billion) writedown related to the unit.

Vodafone Group Plc has considered an acquisition of Fastweb, people familiar with the matter said in June. The Newbury, England-based company made two informal approaches this year and in 2011 that were rejected by Swisscom, two of the people said at the time.

Stock Gains

Swisscom rose 2.3 percent to close at 473 francs in Zurich, giving the company a market value of 24.5 billion francs. The stock has gained 20 percent this year.

“Fastweb’s performance has been disappointing so far, to put it mildly,” De Greling said. A sale “would mean that a company that has the problem of being very Swiss would become even more Swiss.”

Fastweb isn’t for sale and Swiss will develop its Italian unit, Schaeppi told reporters during a press briefing today.

Swisscom also said it’s reorganizing to simplify its structure, combining corporate, network and computer-services units.

Schloter, Swisscom CEO for seven years, was found dead at his home on July 23. Police said they suspect he killed himself.

The company reported today a 2.2 percent increase in third-quarter revenue to 2.87 billion francs, beating analysts’ estimates of 2.84 billion francs. Net income rose 0.4 percent to 450 million francs. Swisscom left its full-year forecasts unchanged.

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