Gegenheimer outlines changes at Zain Group

MWC 2013 EXCLUSIVE: Scott Gegenheimer favours greater autonomy for opcos
Scott Gegenheimer is assessing Zain Group to see where improvements can be made.
Scott Gegenheimer is assessing Zain Group to see where improvements can be made.

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Scott Gegenheimer, who became CEO of Zain Group late last year, said that he is carrying out an assessment of the company in order to see where improvements can be made.

"I'm still in the first 90 days, so i'm still trying to do an assessment on that side across the board," Gegenheimer told CommsMEA on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He said that major challenges for the group, which operates in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa, were the turnaround of the Saudi Arabian unit, which has yet to make a profit, and "currency issues" in Sudan, which contributed to a decline in the group's performance in Q4 2012.

Another area Gegenheimer is focusing on is the group's overall operating model, and the level of centralisation between the group and its eight opcos.

The CEO said that he favours giving a significant level of autonomy to the opcos and intends to encourage greater collaboration between them, such as sharing best practice.

"Structural wise we have got all the opcos reporting in. I don't see the group taking over a lot of the opco functions. I would rather push the autonomy back into the opcos and have the group focus on the strategic roadmap of the direction they're going, and provide support for them," he said. "I'd rather create centres of excellence inside the opcos."

He added that if one of the opcos was strong in a particular area, it should share its experiences with the other country operations, helping to improve the overall group's performance.

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Gegenheimer added that there was "a lot of low hanging fruit" to be captured by creating greater synergies between the opcos. "I think in the past maybe they [opcos] weren't focusing as much on the operations, so we maybe need to streamline it. There are some synergies we can do.

"But the overall market is tough around the world. Voice is falling off the cliff, and even the pricing on data is becoming tough. There is room for pockets of growth but it's not as easy as it used to be."

Gegenheimer also hopes to see Zain Iraq finally acquire the spectrum in needs to launch 3G services in 2013. "We hope to see movement in the second half of the year on that," he said.

The Iraqi unit is currently deploying a Single RAN (radio access network) in the country to make it 3G ready. This network will offer significant energy savings, possibly up to 60% compared to older equipment, the CEO said.

There are about 80 members of staff from Zain Group at Mobile World Congress.

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