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Vocus fast-forwards succession plans as CEO Horth departs

Geoff Horth departs Vocus by mutual agreement with Michael Simmons becoming interim CEO.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Vocus is without a permanent CEO, as its former occupier Geoff Horth has left the company.

In an announcement posted to the ASX on Monday morning, Vocus said the departure of Horth was by mutual agreement, and would bring forward its succession planning.

"Geoff has served as Vocus CEO during undoubtedly the most challenging chapter in its journey to date, wrestling with the simultaneous tasks of integrating several large, complex businesses, combining different corporate cultures and while the Australian telco sector was under substantial structural upheaval, in light of the rollout of the NBN & the exponential growth in demand for data networks," Vocus chairman Vaughan Bowen said.

Prior to becoming Vocus CEO, Horth was the CEO of M2 Group, which merged with Vocus in 2016, creating the third-largest telecommunications provider in New Zealand and the fourth-largest in Australia, valued at more than AU$3 billion at the time.

Later that year, Horth survived a leadership challenge by Vocus founder James Spenceley and Amcom founder Tony Grist, which saw the latter pair resign their positions as company directors.

Taking on the role of interim CEO will be Michael Simmons, who last month became its CEO for Wholesale and International division in a company reshuffle.

The reshuffle saw the company divided into four segments: Enterprise and Government; Wholesale and International; Consumer; and New Zealand. At the time, Horth said the restructure followed its AU$861 million acquisition of Nextgen Networks in July 2016, which "opened new markets and presented significant growth opportunities".

"The opportunities available in Vocus' domestic wholesale business, combined with our investment in the Australia Singapore Cable, warrants the creation of a dedicated Wholesale and International division and will ensure that we have the focus, products, and service proposition to be the provider of choice to customers in this important market," he said.

Simmons will be remain in charge of the Wholesale and International division while adding interim CEO responsibilities to his remit.

"Michael is a proven deliverer, evidenced by the outstanding period-on-period growth reported in the (former) Enterprise & Wholesale division in the first half of FY18," Bowen said. "The Board greatly appreciates Michael stepping into the Interim CEO role, ensuring we retain momentum on the key areas of focus across the Group."

Vocus said its Board Nomination Committee was in the process of looking for a new Group CEO, and the sale of its New Zealand business would still go ahead before the end of the Australian financial year on June 30.

Last week, Vocus reported first-half statutory net profit of AU$37.3 million, and lowered its guidance for the full-year.

Describing the revision as "modest", Vocus said it now expects underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) to be between AU$365 million and AU$380 million for the full year, rather than the originally stated AU$370 million and AU$390 million due to a change in its consumer strategy to "focus on higher-quality digital channels" and a lower number of energy subscribers than originally hoped.

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