Heydemann set to become first woman to lead Orange, sources say – 01/23/2022 at 14:34


by Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) – Orange is set to appoint Christel Heydemann as the group’s chief executive, making her the first woman to lead the former monopoly as part of a governance overhaul, sources said. indicated Sunday two sources close to the file.

The board of directors of Orange, on which Christel Heydemann has sat since 2017, is due to meet on Friday to officially appoint her, the sources said.

Christel Heydemann, 47 and currently head of European operations for French electrical equipment group Schneider Electric, was not immediately available to comment on the information.

Orange has initiated a reshuffle of its management after the resignation of its CEO Stéphane Richard, sentenced on appeal in November in the arbitration case between Bernard Tapie and Crédit Lyonnais.

In addition to Christel Heydemann, Frank Boulben – current manager at Verizon in the United States – and Ramon Fernandez – financial director of Orange – were cited to take the helm of the leading French telecom operator.

The board meeting was originally scheduled for Monday, but was postponed to Friday to settle issues such as when Christel Heydemann will officially take over from Stéphane Richard, as well as a possible temporary extension of duties. operations of the latter, said the sources interviewed by Reuters.

Stéphane Richard was originally due to leave the group on January 31. His role as Chairman remains to be filled, as the splitting of the Chairman and CEO positions is part of Orange’s governance overhaul.

Few women hold management positions in the largest listed French companies. Heydemann would thus become the third managing director of the CAC 40 after Catherine MacGregor at and Estelle Brachlianoff, appointed to take up the position at Veolia from July 1.

Earlier this month, the newspaper Les Echos reported that Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire intended to defend Christel Heydemann’s candidacy for the management of Orange, in which the state holds a 23% stake.

The future leader will take the reins of the operator as it continues to roll out the next generation of mobile networks and fiber optic infrastructure, capital-intensive investments that have weighed on its margins as its two largest markets , France and Spain, remain highly competitive.

The group is considered strategic by the government and scrutinized by the Ministry of Finance and the Elysée, an important factor to take into account for any new management wishing to embark on structuring operations.

Orange managed to stabilize its revenues after the arrival of Iliad’s Free Mobile subsidiary in 2012 sparked a price war. The group has also expanded its activities in West Africa, Poland and Romania, as well as in cybersecurity and banking services.

Its recent financial underperformance, particularly in Spain where Orange has had to downsize, has disappointed investors, however, with the operator’s shares now trading at around a third lower than five years ago.

(French version Benjamin Mallet)

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