November 15, 2013 / 10:12 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Belgian govt fires Belgacom CEO over "criticism and incidents"

(Updates with government announcement of dismissal)

BRUSSELS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - 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)

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