M1 – BT

Yet another lady at the helm of a telco

M1 promotes its own chief financial officer Karen Kooi to be its new CEO

MobileOne’s exhaustive search for a new leader eventually ended in its own backyard with the operator promoting veteran chief financial officer Karen Kooi as its new CEO.

Ms Kooi, who has been M1’s interim boss since the departure of former chief executive Neil Montefiore in February, will take on the role permanently and concurrently become a director of the company from today.

She will relinquish her CFO position and a replacement will be announced at a later date, M1 said in a statement yesterday.

Her appointment comes after a two-month manhunt, with M1 roping in recruitment agencies to help shortlist candidates locally and abroad.

‘Karen has very strong leadership credentials and financial experience, along with significant expertise in the telecommunications industry. She has been an outstanding CFO for the company, and was intimately involved in several strategic decisions for the company,’ said M1 chairman Teo Soon Hoe.

Ms Kooi, a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant with an MBA in Investment and Finance from Britain’s Hull University, joined M1 as its CFO in 1995 after stints with other listed companies such as Singapore Press Holdings and City Developments.

Her promotion mirrors the move from rival Singapore Telecommunications when it appointed then CFO Chua Sock Koong to succeed Lee Hsien Yang as chief executive in 2006.

‘This is not surprising. It’s identical to what SingTel did more than a year ago,’ said DBS Vickers analyst Sachin Mittal.

The appointment of a company veteran could mean M1 is favouring ‘continuity’ over the need to hire externally for a ‘fresh perspective’, he said, adding that Ms Kooi has a ‘tough job’ in store as the new M1 chief.

Besides staring at Singapore’s worst recession in history, the smallest of Singapore’s three operators continues to fall prey to mobile number portability.

According to M1’s first-quarter results, it lost 11,000 mobile subscribers in the first three months of this year. Its cellular market share slid to 25.4 per cent from 26.5 per cent in 2008, with StarHub and SingTel chalking up bigger gains now that consumers can carry over their phone numbers.

Ms Kooi will also have to engineer M1’s foray into unchartered territories such as broadband and even pay-TV businesses over the coming years. The company is now leasing StarHub’s cable platform to offer fixed-line Internet access but it plans to strike out on its own once Singapore’s new fibre-optic network is fully-operational in 2013.

Ms Kooi has previously said she is using the StarHub arrangement as a dipstick for her firm’s future broadband foray and that M1 could even launch a television-related service in the near future.

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