The chief executive officer of one of Britain’s biggest wireless carriers will be the new CEO of Rogers Communications.
Guy Laurence was named this morning as the next head of the Canadian media conglomerate, who will succeed Nadir Mohamed when he retires Dec. 2.
Laurence, 51, has led $11 billion Vodafone UK since 2008. Before that he was CEO of Vodafone Netherlands.
“The board unanimously chose Guy as the best leader to succeed Nadir and to take the company forward,” Rogers chairman Alan Horn said in a statement.
“Guy is a strong, proven executive who has consistently delivered strong financial and operating results in highly complex and competitive markets. The breadth and depth of his experience in telecommunications, pay television and media are perfectly suited to Rogers and to the challenges and opportunities we see ahead.”
Laurence will take over as Rogers prepares for the auction for spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which begins Jan. 14, 2014. In the last spectrum auction the carrier spent just under $1 billion on wireless licences across the country. Given the valuable characteristics of that band – signals can better penetrate buildings than existing spectrum carriers have – it is expected Rogers will spend at least that much this time.
In addition to his telecom experience, Laurence has some experience in media having held executive spots with a number of companies including MGM Studios. That could be useful because Rogers owns a number of specialty cable channels and TV stations as well as print publications.
In a note to investors Dvai Ghose, head of research at Canaccord Genuity, wrote that Laurence “clearly has extensive wireless experience in some of the most competitive markets in the world and has obviously dealt with regulatory challenges in the EU, which could be very useful in his new role.
“Of course he lacks Canadian experience and the track record of foreign CEOs at Rogers has not been stellar – Stan Kabala, who was a former CEO of Rogers Wireless who came from AT&T Wireless, and Charlie Hoffman, also a former CEO of Rogers Wireless who came from Sprint, come to mind.”
On the other hand, he pointed out that Telus CEO Darren Entwistle, who came from Britain’s Cable & Wireless “has been highly successful.”
The appointment of an experienced new CEO ahead of the 700 MHz spectrum auction is “a key positive.” Ghose added.
Ghose also wrote that Laurence’s priorities should be shoring up Rogers Wireless. Since BCE Inc.’s Bell Wireless and Telus partnered in late 2009 on improving their slow CDMA-based networks by moving to HSPA and then LTE, Rogers has lost significant market share and revenue. Poor customer service is the main culprit, Ghose said.
In addition Rogers Cable – the company’s base – is losing market share to Bell in Ontario, he said.
“In our view, Laurence must cut costs aggressively in the cable division as video revenues are expected to continue to decline, and accelerate Rogers’ [TSX: RCI.A] own IPTV overlays, even if this may increase near term cable capex,” Ghose wrote.
“We will also be looking forward to his pricing policies, as Rogers has arguably been overly aggressive in terms of wireless promotions this year, especially as such promotions do not tackle Rogers Wireless’ real challenge which seems to be churn [subscribers leaving] and customer satisfaction.
“But perhaps his biggest challenge will be making peace with the [federal] government in light of this summer’s Verizon wars which thankfully seem behind us.”
Verizon Communications was looking at buying either Wind Mobile or Mobilicity to get into the Canadian market prior to the 700 MHz auction, which made Rogers, Bell and Telus mount a furious public relations campaign over the summer to protest that rules aimed at helping startups would be an unfair advantage to a wireless giant like Verizon.