BRUSSELS Nov 15 Belgacom chief executive Didier Bellens will be dismissed on Friday by the government, the telecom group's majority shareholder, four Belgian newspapers reported on Friday.
The Belgian government, which has a 53.5 percent stake in Belgacom, has been growing increasingly impatient with Bellens, who has made headlines this year in the local media with his criticism of Belgian federal and regional authorities.
He is reported to have told a recent Brussels business club meeting that, in receiving an annual dividend from Belgacom, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was like a child coming for his present from Santa Claus.
A spokesman for Jean-Pascal Labille, the federal minister in charge of public companies, said that the government had not taken a decision, with a meeting planned later on Friday to discuss the matter.
Belgacom was not immediately available for comment.
Previously at Belgian holding group GBL and media group RTL, Bellens became CEO of Belgacom in March 2003. His mandate would have run until 2015 after being extended for a six-year term in 2009.
Both Chief Finance Officer Ray Stewart and the head of the group's consumer unit Dominique Leroy have been touted as possible candidates to succeed Bellens, business daily De Tijd wrote.
Investors in the company view Bellens as having done a reasonable job during a turbulent time for European telecoms operators, many of which have paid top dollar for mobile licences at a time when regulators have moved to cap prices in the sector.
"We believe Mr Bellens has done a fine job at Belgacom, balancing investments with a consistent (dividend) payout policy," KBC analyst Thomas Deschepper wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Patrick Graham)