(Updates with government announcement of dismissal)
BRUSSELS Nov 15 Belgium's prime minister
announced the dismissal of Belgacom Chief Executive
Didier Bellens on Friday, saying the government, the telecom
group's majority shareholder, had acted partly because of his
repeated criticism of the authorities.
Bellens has had a turbulent year during which media reports
on his outspoken views on the political and regulatory situation
in the country drew complaints from Belgian politicians.
The government, which has a 53.5 percent stake in Belgacom,
said the search for a successor to Bellens was under way.
"Repeated criticism and incidents have irrevocably
undermined the confidence of the Belgian government in Mr.
Didier Bellens," Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said.
"For this reason the federal government recalls Mr. Didier
Bellens from the post of the chief executive of Belgacom," he
told a news conference.
Belgacom declined when asked to comment earlier on Friday
about newspaper reports that Bellens was about to be dismissed.
Bellens had forcefully voiced frustration that mobile
operators were barred from installing a new, high-speed "4G"
mobile network in Brussels, because of the city's strict
radiation regulations, although it is already used in Germany
and the United States.
He was also reported to have told a Brussels business club
meeting that, in receiving an annual dividend from Belgacom, Di
Rupo was like a child coming for his present from Santa Claus.
Bellens, previously at Belgian holding group GBL
and media group RTL, became CEO of Belgacom in March
2003. His mandate would have run until 2015 after being extended
for a six-year term in 2009.
Investors in the company view Bellens as having done a
reasonable job at a tough time for European telecoms operators,
many of which have paid top dollar for mobile licences at a time
when regulators 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 Anthony Barker)