‘Arun Sarin will go out on a high’

May 27th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 27 (IANS) British commentators gave Indian-born Arun Sarin their thumbs up as he announced his decision to step down as chief executive officer of Vodafone, saying he had steered the world’s largest mobile phone operator on a path of growth and profitability. While many analysts said the announcement had come a little earlier than expected, they praised the 53-year-old Sarin for helping develop Vodafone’s global strategy and fetch record profits in the process.

“Analysts are unlikely to deny that Sarin will go out on a high,” said The Times.

“During his five years he has turned around Vodafone’s prospects, giving an indication that consumers are finally banishing their reluctance to spend on more lucrative services instead of just calling and texting,” it added.

Sarin himself said, “We have made strong progress over the past year with our strategy and met or exceeded our stated financial expectations in all areas.”

“I have achieved what I set out to achieve on becoming CEO and therefore I felt the timing was right,” Sarin told reporters on a conference call, adding that he did not expect the group’s strategy to change.

He took over the reins of Vodafone in 2003 - at a time the company was struggling to justify an investment of 6 billion pounds in third generation mobile phone licenses.

In 2004, he faced the wrath of analysts and shareholders when he entered into an expensive auction for AT&T Wireless. He withdrew when Cingular made an offer that Sarin did not want to match.

When European growth slowed in 2005 Sarin was criticised by some investors who feared the company did not have a strategy to combat the problem.

The low point came in 2006 at Vodafone’s annual meeting, when 10 percent of investors voted against his re-election to the board.

But, the Financial Times reported, Sarin “subsequently won over most investors by highlighting the growth opportunities in emerging markets and by going beyond Vodafone’s mobile-centric past to sell fixed-line broadband to its European customers.”

Last year marked the high point in his career when he concluded Vodafone’s landmark purchase of a controlling stake in Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth-largest mobile operator, for 5.7 billion pounds - a deal that was preceded by the takeover of Telsim in Turkey.

“Sarin’s renewed focus on building Vodafone’s presence in emerging markets, while exiting difficult operations such as its business in Japan, has been the catalyst for a number of large acquisitions,” the Daily Telegraph said.

“By naming his deputy, Sarin and Vodafone chairman Sir John Bond should win plaudits for the company’s succession planning, an issue that has proved troublesome for a string of FTSE 100 companies,” the newspaper added.

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