The chief executive of Vodafone will step down later this month following a slump in the company’s share price and warnings over job cuts.
Nick Read, who has spent two decades at Vodafone and four years as chief executive, will stand down on Dec 31. Finance head Margherita Della Valle will be appointed interim group chief executive until a successor is appointed.
Mr Read’s abrupt exit comes amid intense talks with Three about a merger of Vodafone and its rival’s UK mobile divisions. Vodafone’s share price has fallen 40pc since Mr Read, 58, was appointed in October 2018.
Mr Read said: “I agreed with the board that now is the right moment to hand over to a new leader who can build on Vodafone’s strengths and capture the significant opportunities ahead.”
The executive was responsible for a series of major strategic deals at the telecoms giant, completing the acquisition of Liberty Global’s Germany business for €18bn and selling off its European towers arm in a €20bn float.
But despite the flurry of deal making so far its German acquisitions have struggled to pay off. Germany now accounts for 30pc of Vodafone’s revenues, but profits fell earlier this year and it is losing customers.
In response to inflation pressures, Mr Read in November said that Vodafone would find €1bn (£870m) of savings and increase prices across Europe.
The savings will include job losses, although Mr Read refused to say where they will fall and how many roles will be cut.
Jean-François van Boxmeer, chairman of Vodafone, said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Nick for his commitment and significant contribution to Vodafone as Group Chief Executive and throughout his career spanning more than two decades with the company.”
Mr Read said: “It has been a privilege to spend over 20 years of my career at Vodafone and I am proud of what we have delivered for customers and society across Europe and Africa.”