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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Vodafone Qatar replaces CEO after firm fails to turn a profit

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Amid growing financial loses and a stagnant mobile market share, Vodafone Qatar has replaced its chief executive.

The company announced late last week that CEO Kyle Whitehill was leaving the UK-based company after nearly 15 years “to pursue other opportunities.”

Ian Gray, new Vodafone CEO
Ian Gray, new Vodafone CEO

He spent more than two years in Qatar and will be replaced by former Vodafone Egypt Chairman Ian Gray, effective immediately.

Whitehill’s departure comes less than a month after the company’s only local competitor, Ooredoo, replaced its longtime CEO, Nasser Mohammed Marafih after several disappointing financial quarters.

Whitehill joined Vodafone Qatar in mid-2013 at a time when company officials were forecasting that the firm would turn a profit by 2015.

Instead, the firm continued to post losses that widened this year as the company pumped more money into network upgrades.

Tough competition

That led Whitehill to tell Bloomberg in an interview this fall that the company did not expect to break even until “2017, at a minimum.”

He blamed slowing population growth and pressure to keep prices low due to competition with Vodafone’s much larger rival in Qatar, Ooredoo.

Vodafone broke the monopoly of Ooredoo – which was previously known as Qtel – when it launched operations in 2009.

It quickly gained ground in the mobile sector and continued to sign up new customers, including approximately 54,000 in the 12 months leading up to September 2015.

However, its market share stood at 32.3 percent – the exact same ratio as two years earlier.

Additionally, the average amount of money each of its mobile customers spend each month – a key industry performance metric – is declining, something Vodafone has blamed on a “competitive price” environment.

Over the last couple of years, customers have benefited from several simultaneous Vodafone and Ooredoo promotions, including lower local calling rates and discounted data packages.

The competition verged on acrimonious at times, with the firms accusing each other of running misleading advertising campaigns in complaints to Qatar’s telecom watchdog.

QNBN
QNBN

Vodafone has also faced hurdles in its attempts to expand into other market segments. That includes abandoning plans in November 2014 to purchase the state-owned Qatar National Broadband Network.

In his interview with Bloomberg, Whitehill said this meant Vodafone was effectively restricted to providing wireless and mobile broadband services without being able to target home or enterprise customers.

“Without fixed line access, it’s impossible to grow,” he was quoted as saying.

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