Friday 20 April 2018

Eir's Lennon to step up to CEO role in wake of French takeover

Carolan Lennon has been responsible for leading the deployment of Eir’s rural fibre broadband network; David McRedmond, above, is to become non-executive chairman
Carolan Lennon has been responsible for leading the deployment of Eir’s rural fibre broadband network; David McRedmond, above, is to become non-executive chairman
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Eir insider Carolan Lennon will be the telco's new CEO when a controlling stake in the company is sold to firms connected to French billionaire Xavier Niel.

Ms Lennon will succeed incumbent Richard Moat, who is leaving the role after formally taking up the post in 2014.

She is currently the managing director of the Open Eir networks and wholesale division.

Eir has also announced that An Post CEO David McRedmond, the former boss of TV3, will become the telco's non-executive chairman once the deal with Mr Niel's companies has been finalised.

Ms Lennon is the first woman to run Eir and the first Irish person since 2007 to be CEO. Each of the last four Eir CEOs was hired in from abroad.

Mr McRedmond will take over from Carl Leaver, who has held the post since September last year. Mr Leaver had succeeded former ESB boss Padraig McManus in the role.

An Post and Eir were once sister companies.

From Coolock on Dublin's northside, Ms Lennon (51) joined Eir in 2010 from Vodafone, initially as chief commercial officer, before becoming has head of the group's wholesale arm in 2016. After graduating from UCD, she worked in the financial sector before leaving to do an MBA in Trinity in 1996.

She's also a non-executive director of AIB, having joined the bank's board in 2016. She is a member of AIB's board risk committee.

Ms Lennon has been leading the rollout of infrastructure that by the end of this year will connect 300,000 rural homes to Eir's fibre broadband network.

Two French firms, NJJ and Iliad, are buying a combined 65pc of Eir in a €650m deal that was announced last year.

NJJ is Mr Niel's investment vehicle, and will own 32.9pc of Eir. Stock market-listed telecoms firm Iliad was founded by Mr Niel who owns 52pc of the firm. Iliad will own the remaining stake of Eir that's being sold. That deal is set to be sealed by the end of June.

In its last financial year, Eir generated revenue of €1.32bn and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of €520m. The figures were 1pc and 4pc higher respectively year-on-year. The Open Eir unit accounted for €340m of group revenue.

Ms Lennon said she is "excited" about her new role. "The company's new owners have significant telecommunications experience and a long track record of success," she said.

"My priority and ambition is to work closely with the new owners on a strategic level to achieve one objective for Eir - to provide the best mobile and broadband network to every household and business across Ireland through multi-year investments in innovative yet simple solutions."

Mr McRedmond said that the new ownership structure of Eir combined with its management team will give it the potential "to exceed Irish people's expectations for connectivity".

"Eir today is a good business and I hope in the years ahead it will become a great company," he said.

Ms Lennon will take over at Eir as the government's National Broadband Plan remains in limbo following the telco's decision in January to exit the race to deploy the network. It left just one group, a consortium of Enet and power firm SSE, in the running.

Eir said it was unable to make the economics of the plan stack up. Mr Moat said that under the scheme, Eir would have had to duplicate its wholesale division at a cost of tens of millions of euro, for instance.

"The overarching investment environment for fibre given the potential changes to regulated wholesale rate is not looking that attractive for us. Put those things together and it's very difficult to make a positive business case," he told the Irish Independent last month.

The Government has insisted broadband plan will be awarded by September.

Mr Moat, originally from Birmingham, told the Irish Independent earlier this month that he intends to remain in Ireland after leaving Eir. "I'm staying here. I'm intending to establish the next phase of my career here," he said, adding that he had not yet identified a new role.

He has previously held executive roles with companies including telco Orange and oil firm Marathon. He's currently a non-executive director of listed UK financial services firm International Personal Finance.

Eir has seen 10 changes to its ownership structure in almost the past 20 years. It was floated on the stock market in 1999 by the then Fianna Fáil government and in later years was saddled with debt by subsequent owners.

In 2012, it entered what was the State's biggest ever examinership. It had €4bn of debt. It exited that process the same year, with the debt pile slashed by 40pc. It has since been placed on a much stronger financial footing.

Irish Independent

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