Spark shuffles execs amidst 'strategic transformation'

After flagging an upcoming transformation in February, Spark has announced changes to the executive teams for several of its business arms.

New Zealand telecommunications provider Spark has announced changes to its executive lineup, including the CFO and chief transformation officer of Spark New Zealand; the CEO of Spark Digital; the CEO of Spark Ventures; the COO of Spark Connect; and the chief digital officer of Spark Platforms.

Unveiled by Spark on Tuesday, the shuffle is aimed at steering the company through its "next phase of transformation".

"I have been in discussions for some months now with various members of the leadership team about what they want for the future and equally what the company wants, ensuring we have the team ready to see the company through the next period of significant change as we strive for a return to growth," said Spark MD Simon Moutter.

The changes will see Spark Digital CEO Tim Miles step down, to be replaced by current Spark New Zealand CFO Jolie Hodson before the end of the year, who will herself be replaced by a yet-to-be-announced external candidate. Miles has been appointed as a non-executive chairman of Spark's cloud services business CCL and datacentre division Revera.

Spark Ventures CEO Rod Snodgrass is leaving his position at the end of the year in order to "be involved in driving corporate innovation and growth across a select range of New Zealand businesses", according to Moutter, and will be replaced by an as yet unchosen internal staffer so as to "evolve our strategy to 'Ventures 2.0'".

Previously announced incoming Spark Connect COO Mark Beder will take up his new role on July 1, while current GM of Change and Technology Claire Barber has been appointed as chief digital officer of Spark Platforms, also effective as of July 1.

"Spark Platforms will design, develop, and operate best-practice digital platforms and the core products and services enabled by them," Moutter explained.

Current Spark Connect COO David Havercroft will take on the temporary chief transformation officer mantle for Spark New Zealand on July 1, wherein he will "oversee all the moving parts of the next phase of our strategic transformation".

Moutter gave little precise detail of what this transformation could involve, citing possible "big business simplification choices" that are under consideration, "some industry infrastructure shaping and technology pathway opportunities", and "interesting opportunities for business expansion and revenue growth".

"Leadership succession is something many companies grapple with. This announcement shows our determination to do this right and ensure Spark New Zealand has strong, effective leadership for the period ahead," Moutter concluded.

"I'm particularly proud that the majority of the above moves involve the promotion of our own people. It's a testament to the depth and quality of talent we have within the organisation, and this will continue to underpin our success as New Zealand's leading digital services company."

Moutter had in February flagged a "strategic transformation" for the business to move away from being a traditional telco towards becoming a digital services provider, saying that to achieve this, the Spark Connect business would be split in two to form Spark Connect and Spark Platforms.

Spark Connect would focus on core connectivity, while Spark Platform's role will be "to design, develop, and operate best-practice digital platforms and the core products enabled by them", he explained.

At the same time, Spark announced its half-year results for the 2015 financial year, reporting net earnings up 7.5 percent year on year to NZ$158 million on operating revenue of NZ$1.723 billion -- down 4.1 percent -- and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of NZ$455 million, up 4.4 percent.

The NZ$74 million decline in operating revenue was due to regulatory changes whereby Chorus imposes copper network access charges for a majority of Spark Wholesale customers.

Both mobile and broadband revenue grew, the former by 11.7 percent to NZ$563 million and the latter by 4.6 percent, to NZ$339 million. The telco had 2.212 million mobile connections and 675,000 broadband connections as of the end of December.

For total operating revenue, Spark Home, Mobile, and Business contributed NZ$981 million; Spark Digital NZ$601 million; and Spark Connect NZ$138 million.