(Bloomberg) -- Royal KPN NV Chief Executive Officer Maximo Ibarra is leaving the Dutch phone company less than two years into his job to run Comcast Corp.’s Italian pay-TV unit.
Ibarra, 50, was named CEO of Sky Italia on Tuesday and will assume the role on Oct. 1, according to a statement from the Italian company. Bloomberg News earlier on Tuesday reported that Ibarra was leaving KPN to take the Sky Italia position. Shares of KPN fell as much as 4% in early trading and closed down 1.8% in Amsterdam.
The resignation announced by KPN on Tuesday surprised some analysts given Ibarra’s short tenure, despite Italian newspapers having reported that he was a leading candidate for the Sky role. KPN is now searching for a successor to replace the Colombian-Italian executive, its first foreign CEO, when he leaves on Sept. 30.
Ibarra had ambitions to put KPN back on the acquisition trail, people familiar with the matter said ahead of his April 2018 arrival. But a big KPN deal hasn’t happened and he has focused on cutting jobs and simplifying the company’s IT systems, while KPN contends with a tough competitive landscape in the Netherlands that’s spurred mergers among rivals.
The departure is a loss for KPN, which will probably appoint an external successor, ABN Amro analyst Konrad Zomer said in a note. He doubted Chief Financial Officer Jan Kees de Jager would become CEO, while calling him “very solid,” and said other board members and senior management might not have the right profile.
What Bloomberg Intelligence Says
“The resignation of CEO Maximo Ibarra -- while executing his midterm plan unveiled in November -- will dent confidence in KPN’s ability to return to sustainable Ebitda growth. The management-team reshuffle could also create a window of opportunity for a takeover attempt, in our view.”--Erhan Gurses, Telecom analystClick here to view the research
KPN stock surged in late January after people familiar with the matter said Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc. was in early-stage talks to make an offer for company. The fate of those talks is unclear and the Dutch government has since tightened its control over foreign takeovers.
The shares are up about 11% since Ibarra took charge, compared with a 10% decline in the Stoxx 600 Telecommunications Index.
“The supervisory board regrets but respects Maximo’s decision and accepts his resignation,” Chairman Duco Sickinghe said in a statement from KPN. The company said Ibarra will step down for “pressing family reasons.” KPN said the departure isn’t connected to a network outage in the Netherlands that lasted for hours on Monday, knocking out emergency phone services.
“I regret the timing, but family reasons gave me no choice. I will dedicate myself the coming months to secure a seamless transfer to my successor,” Ibarra said in the statement.
He will report to Andrea Zappia, head of Sky's continental European business. ``Our next introduction of broadband services will allow us to further expand our business in a crucial area for our clients and in which Maximo has extensive experience,'' Zappia said in the statement.
By leaving so soon, Ibarra forfeits a one-time payment of 200,000 euros ($228 million) in cash and 200,000 euros in shares that was subject to a retention period, according to publicly-disclosed details of his contract that were confirmed by a KPN spokeswoman.
His telecommunications experience could help Comcast with plans to offer high-speed broadband in Italy through a deal with fixed-line operator Open Fiber SpA. Sky, mainly a satellite broadcaster in Italy, faces mounting competition from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video service.
Ibarra ran the Italian business of Veon Ltd., renamed from VimpelCom Ltd., before joining KPN and oversaw one of Europe’s biggest telecom tie-ups -- the 2016 merger of VimpelCom’s Italian wireless network with the local unit of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.
(Updates with confirmation from Sky Italia in second statement)
--With assistance from Sonia Sirletti and Dan Liefgreen.
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