SOUTH AFRICA – MTN, a multinational mobile telecommunications company, has announced the appointment of Ralph Mupita as its new group Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Mupita will be taking over from Rob Shuter, who is set to step down at the end of August.

Mupita, the group’s current chief financial officer, will start his duties in September 2020, the company said. He will also take on the role of group president.

“The current group president and CEO, Rob Shuter, will step down from his executive responsibilities on 31 August 2020 and will thereafter support Ralph as required until the end of his fixed-term contract early next year,” said the telecoms group.

Mupita was CEO of Old Mutual Emerging Markets before joining the mobile operator in 2017.

“Ralph’s experience as the group CFO, strong knowledge of our businesses and markets, as well as successful background in financial services, M&A and emerging markets, place him in an excellent position to lead the growth and sustainability of the business going forward,” said MTN Chairperson Mcebisi Jonas in a statement.

MTN said Mupita played a critical role in the development and execution of the group’s strategy, capital allocation processes, financial performance as well as in the resolution of a number of complex regulatory matters.

The new CEO’s key focus will likely be on putting out fires in some the operational territories where the company has found itself in hot water with authorities, as well as the ongoing restructuring of its portfolio.

The mobile operator has run into a series of disputes with Nigerian authorities, its biggest market outside South Africa. It has announced that it plans to reduce its majority stake in the Nigerian business and exit the Middle East.

This month, MTN announced it would begin its three- to five-year exit from the Middle East by selling its 75% stake in Syria to Romanian technology investment company TeleInvest.

A plan to sell part of its 79% shareholding in MTN Nigeria to local investors is also in motion. MTN Nigeria Communications was listed in Lagos in 2019.

The company had faced tough trading conditions in Nigeria, where it has been slapped with hefty fines by local regulators.

Michael Treherne, Portfolio Manager at ‎Vestact Asset Management, said Mupita was a good fit for the job. He noted that he was part of the new management team assembled by Shuter and had a good reputation internally and externally.

“When it comes to appointing senior leaders, unless major change is required in a company, it is always better to appoint from inside the company,” he said. “He has seen the changes take place and has been involved in their implementation.”

Locally, MTN will need to focus on growing its subscriber base in the face of increased competition as well as the jostle for dominance in data offerings.

The upcoming auctioning of spectrum by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, meanwhile, is expected to improve the ability of mobile operators to provide fast data.

“His key focuses going forward will be group consolidation as MTN looks to focus on their African operations, and then the roll out of 5G across their networks,” said Treherne.

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