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Alcatel appoints Combes as successor to Verwaayen

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 1:51pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

Alcatel-Lucent’s board of directors today approved the appointment of Michel Combes as the company’s new CEO. The change goes into effect April 1. Combes will also join the company’s board, subject to the approval of shareholders at the Alcatel-Lucent annual general meeting on May 7.

Combes, a former CEO of Vodafone Europe, has also held positions as chairman and CEO of TDF, as well as CFO and senior executive vice president of France Telecom.

Combes succeeds long-time CEO Ben Verwaayen, who earlier this month announced his resignation amid a $1.8 billion loss for 2012.

In a statement, Combes called Alcatel-Lucent an "unrivalled technology leader in the telecommunications industry," but he also noted that the company is "facing major challenges."

"This is a company I know well, and I look forward to succeeding Ben; working with the key international customers; and driving the business into sustained profitability for its customers, employees and shareholders.”

Hired on in 2008, Verwaayen succeeded Patricia Russo, who was then CEO of Lucent Technologies. Russo was instrumental in merging Lucent Technologies with Alcatel.

While Verwaayen noted a combination of recent refinancing and the implementation of a restructuring plan as initiatives that will "put the company on a secure footing," that wasn't what investors were seeing. Verwaayen had been criticized in recent years for those very plans failing to return the company to profitability.

In this most recent quarter, the company's wireless equipment division was one of the few bright spots. Wireless division revenues stabilized to $1.2 billion, an increase of 2.2 percent from the year-ago quarter, after four straight quarters of double-digit declines.

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