But talk in the industry is that a range of candidates is still being considered, among them former Telkom chief financial officer Peter Nelson and Telkom SA MD Nombulelo “Pinky” Moholi.
Other names that have been linked to the post include ArcelorMittal CEO Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, who is a former chief officer for mergers and acquisitions at Vodacom, and Tiger Brands CEO Peter Matlare, who worked at Vodacom as chief strategy and business development officer.
Irnest Kaplan, MD of Kaplan Equity Analysts, says it’s crucial that Telkom’s board install both a strong CEO and chief financial officer. The finance position has been vacant since Nelson quit last year, with Deon Fredericks standing in in an acting capacity since then.
Kaplan says Telkom must appoint a CEO who has a solid pedigree in telecoms, someone who understands technology how it applies to the company.
Whoever is appointed will have to work quickly to extricate Telkom from Nigeria, where its Multi-Links subsidiary has bled billions of rand. They’ll also have to work hard to defend Telkom’s position in the voice market and be more aggressive in expanding the data side of the business, Kaplan says.
With the right leadership team in place, there is a great deal of shareholder value that can be unlocked at Telkom, Kaplan adds. Telkom trades at a discount to its net asset value. But unlocking this value will only be realised if the right person is appointed to the position, “and not someone who comes from somewhere like Transnet”, Kaplan says.
“This is a helluva important time for Telkom,” he says. “There’s an incredibly good opportunity to pick the right person.”
Kaplan says it’s in government’s interests for the company to be led by a credible individual and not a political crony with little or no experience in the industry. “Government needs to realise this is an incredible opportunity at a critical time in Telkom’s history.”
BMI-TechKnowledge MD Denis Smit says Moholi would be his first choice for Telkom CEO given her experience and knowledge of the company. “Telkom needs someone who knows the ins and outs of the telecoms industry.”
Smit says Moholi’s extensive telecoms experience gives her the knowledge that Telkom will need in coming years.
“The telecoms industry is complicated and Telkom faces changes like local-loop unbundling that will need someone technical to lead the way.”
However, Smit says Moholi lacks political clout. Nonetheless, he is “delighted” with government’s decision to appoint Lazarus Zim as group chairman — because he is politically well connected, Zim could act as a buffer for Moholi, or whoever takes the CEO job.
“This could free the CEO to get stuck in at Telkom as a business rather than having to deal with the political side of the company.”
Telkom’s board is expected to announce the name of the successful candidate by the end of March. — Duncan McLeod and Candice Jones, TechCentral