Vodafone's chief exec faces shareholder rebellion

Despite reasonably healthy results for the latest quarter, Arun Sarin's future as Vodafone's chief executive still looks insecure

Vodafone has released its latest quarterly performance update — but the stats may not be enough to quash the rebellion currently fomenting among the operator's shareholders.

According to the latest set of key performance indicators, Vodafone has added 4.5 million new customers across its properties worldwide, taking it to a total of 186 million users, and has signed up an extra 1.3 million 3G subscriptions.

The operator reported six percent revenue growth across the board, although its European operations showed an increase of just 1.3 per cent. Vodafone reiterated guidance of growth between 5 and 6.5 per cent over the year.

According to Ovum analyst Jon Delaney, the results are "reasonably healthy" and, in the short term, better than some expected. However, the future of the company's chief executive, Arun Sarin, still looks insecure.

Delaney said in a research note: "Vodafone acknowledged in its May results briefing that its growth strategy needs to hinge on benefiting from emerging mobile markets and from the trend towards converged fixed/mobile services. But three months on, we're still short on specifics regarding how those goals are to be achieved. Statements of good intent will not be enough, by themselves, for Sarin to keep the shareholders at bay for much longer."

Sarin has also lost one of his key execs, it was announced this morning. Bill Morrow, head of the company's European division, will be leaving the company at the end of July and returning to the US, citing family reasons for his departure. Morrow had headed up both the company's UK and Japanese units, where he oversaw the watershed sale of Japanese operations to Softbank.

The departure of Morrow marks the latest in a series of shake-ups among Vodafone's senior management. In April, the company was split into three divisions, with execs reshuffled accordingly. And in late 2005, its chairman Lord MacLaurin announced he will step down at the 2006 AGM, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

The AGM is likely to be uncomfortable for current chief executive Sarin. Several big-name investors are thought to be planning to vote against his re-election to the board.