Rogers picks Guy Laurence to be next chief executive

TORONTO – Rogers Communications has appointed the chief executive of Vodafone U.K. as its new president and CEO, ahead of a wireless auction that will see Canada’s telecom companies compete for radio waves to expand their cellphone networks.

Guy Laurence, 52, will be the top executive of Toronto-based Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), which is one of Canada’s largest communications companies, in December.

He succeeds Nadir Mohamed, who had previously announced his intention to retire as the head of the wireless, cable and media company.

“Guy is a strong, proven executive who has consistently delivered strong financial and operating results in highly complex and competitive markets,” board chairman Alan Horn said in a statement on Thursday.

Laurence has 30 years of experience in telecommunications, pay television and media. He first joined Vodafone in 2000, holding a number of increasingly senior roles including CEO of Vodafone Netherlands before becoming CEO of Vodafone UK in 2008.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose said Laurence’s biggest challenge may be “making peace with the government after this summer’s Verizon wars.”

Rogers along with Bell and Telus challenged the entry of the big U.S. telecom into the Canadian market as a new player, giving it advantages over them in purchasing wireless spectrum. Verizon recently said it wasn’t interested in entering Canada’s wireless market and bought a large stake in Verizon Wireless from Vodafone for $130 billion.

Laurence will take over in December, shortly before the spectrum auction in January.

Ghose said that Laurence should focus on increasing wireless subscribers and cutting costs in the cable division.

“In summary, we like the fact that the uncertainty has been cleared and Rogers has a new executive with a ton of experience who is hopefully in it for the longer term. While we do not expect the stock to move much on this announcement, it could prove to be positive for the shareholders over time,” he said.

Laurence called Rogers an “iconic” and well-respected company.

“Its unique mix of wireless, cable and media assets offer a brilliant platform to provide innovative service to Canadians,” he said. “I intend to build on the strong foundation established under Nadir’s leadership to compete and win in the market.”

Vodafone is a major wireless provider with operations and investments in several countries.

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