(Corrects text and headline to clarify that Davies was no longer CFO of Verizon Wireless since June and was instead referred to as Vodafone’s financial representative at Verizon Wireless)
* Moving listing after nearly two decades on NYSE
* Appoints Verizon Wireless’ Andrew Davies as CFO
MOSCOW, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Telecoms group Vimpelcom, with assets in Russia, Italy and emerging markets, poached the former CFO of the biggest U.S. mobile provider Verizon Wireless, and defected to Nasdaq after nearly two decades trading on NYSE Euronext.
Luring Andrew Davies is a coup for Vimpelcom. He worked at Vodafone’s Turkish, Japanese and UK businesses before taking the position of chief financial officer at the U.S. giant - a venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone - in 2010.
Davies left that role in June to become Vodafone’s financial representative at Verizon Wireless.
His appointment by Vimpelcom was seen as an attempt to reassure investors that the Amsterdam-based group will cut its debt burden, ease out of some emerging markets and focus on larger markets instead.
“None of the key tasks Vimpelcom has faced - to ease its debt burden or to refinance Wind’s (its Italian operations) debts in order to lower its interest expenses - have been really fulfilled over the past one-and-a-half to two years,” said Alexander Vengranovich, analyst at Otkritie brokerage.
Vengranovich described Davies as “a very experienced and a major figure.”
Vimpelcom’s net debt stands at $22.6 billion, built up while pursuing expansion in 2010 outside of its core Russian market through a more than $6 billion deal for Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and Italy’s Wind.
Vimpelcom vies for customers and investors seeking exposure to the Russian telecoms market with London-listed rival Megafon and New York-listed MTS and Megafon.
Some investors have favoured Megafon and MTS due to Vimpelcom’s lagging performance in Russia and a long shareholder dispute between its shareholders Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa-Group, and Norwegian telecoms group Telenor, which was resolved last year.
One investor, who prefers MTS and Megafon, said he needed more assurances to demonstrate that shareholder disputes had settled down and that a turnaround in Italy and Russia had taken root.
“It would take a couple of quarters of sustained improvement to change my mind,” said the investor, who declined to be named.
Vimpelcom has focused on improving its market share in Russia by cutting costs and boosting network quality, while a report by Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper suggested management changes in Russia were also in store, something Vimpelcom denies.
Vedomosti, citing sources, said Altimo wanted to replace Vimpelcom’s Russia CEO Anton Kudryashov. Vimpelcom’s CEO Jo Lunder rejected this.
“We are pleased with the development in Russia... and I consider Anton a very important member of my core management team and I have no plans or intentions to ask Anton to leave the company,” Lunder told Reuters by telephone.
Vimpelcom, which listed on the NYSE in 1996, also announced on Wednesday it was moving to Nasdaq in order to be included into several Nasdaq indexes and to save costs.
“There are many TMT (technology, media and telecoms) companies present on Nasdaq ... and we think it is a natural step for Vimpelcom to be included into that very strong group of companies,” Lunder said.
“This is something we have been analysing and looked into for a while and we decided that now is the time,” Lunder said.
The NYSE and Nasdaq compete fiercely for listings, although Russian companies which seek overseas trading tend to apply to the London Stock Exchange, which is closer.
Vimpelcom will join other Russian technology-focused companies on Nasdaq such as search engine Yandex and expects to begin trading on Sept. 10.
The move will, however, be a loss for the NYSE, which boasts a handful of Russian names such as MTS, steel and coal miner Mechel and U.S.-based IT services provider Epam Systems Inc.
Vimpelcom also said its second quarter net income rose 17 percent year-on-year to $573 million and beating a Reuters poll forecast of $497 million.
Revenue was flat at $5.7 billion, in line with expectations, while earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation fell 2 percent to $2.4 billion with a 42.4 percent margin, Vimpelcom said in a statement. (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; additional reporting and writing by Megan Davies, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Thomas Atkins)