PARIS (Reuters) - France's state-backed telecom group Orange named Ramon Fernandez, a top civil servant who now serves as the country's Treasury chief, as its next chief financial officer effective in September.
The appointment is part of a reshuffle of the management ranks of Europe's fourth-largest telecom group by sales by Chief Executive Stephane Richard. His second three-year term at the helm of Orange was expected to be approved at an annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday. Richard is trying to stabilize Orange's operating profit despite cut-throat competition in its home market of France, which along with regulatory changes, has taken a chunk out of revenue. Mobile service prices in France decreased by 27 percent last year after having fallen 11 percent in 2012, according to data published on Tuesday by telecom regulator ARCEP.
Like other European telecom players, Orange - which also operates in Britain, Spain, and Poland, and a dozen African markets - is trying to develop new services in everything from mobile payments to cloud computing in the aim of returning to top-line growth.
To that end, Richard also on Tuesday named a French banking executive, Laurent Paillassot, as a deputy CEO to help Orange develop its mobile banking services. Paillassot, 49, has worked at French retail bank LCL, a unit of Credit Agricole, since 2007 to develop its technology projects.
Fernandez will also hold the title of deputy CEO in addition to serving as CFO. Current finance chief Gervais Pellissier will go on to lead the group's European operations, including its joint venture with Deutsche Telekom in Britain.
The appointment of Fernandez, a high-ranking civil servant with no telecoms experience, shows the continued influence of the state at Orange, which was formerly called France Telecom. The French government owns 27 percent of the company, and effectively names the CEO of Orange and nominates three of its 15 directors.
Orange shares are up nearly 35 percent this year, making it the second-largest gainer in Europe's telecom index, which is up 1.7 percent in the same period.