Rob Shuter's successor Ralph Mupita to take over as MTN CEO in September
JOHANNESBURG – Africa’s biggest wireless company, MTN, on Wednesday appointed Ralph Mupita as its new chief executive in line with market expectations, given his knowledge of the company and expertise in operating in complex geographies.
The group said Mupita would take over in September, succeeding Rob Shuter, who will step down from his executive responsibilities at the end of the month after his fixed four-year contract comes to an end.
Chairperson Mcebisi Jonas said that after a rigorous and extensive search process, the group was pleased to have appointed someone of Mupita’s calibre and experience.
“Ralph’s experience as the group chief financial officer, strong knowledge of our businesses and markets, as well as successful background in financial services, mergers and acquisitions and emerging markets, place him in an excellent position to lead the growth and sustainability of the business going forward,” said Jonas.
Mupita led Old Mutual Emerging Markets for five years prior to joining MTN. He described his appointment as a privilege and honour.
“MTN Group is well positioned to take advantage of the digital acceleration shifts and opportunities across our markets, and we are well placed to play an important and leading role in digital and financial inclusion of the African continent, working with our stakeholders and partners,” said Mupita.
Experts said the appointment would not result in a deviation in the group’s strategy. MTN earlier this month announced plans to withdraw from the Middle East and focus on becoming a pan-African champion.
Old Mutual Investment Group portfolio manager Ian Woodley said Mupita’s immediate focus would be to strengthen the balance sheet, hence the asset disposals, with the IHS initial public offering being the big one.
“After that, MTN has to continue to grow the business, continue to maintain the quality of its network, get approvals from regulators to expand in fintech, improve its return on equity to basically continue with the strategy of the past few years,” Woodley said.
He said it was possible that some major markets would open up as potential investment opportunities, including Ethiopia, which management has frequently mentioned.
“Management has to convince the market that any investments it makes here will enhance returns rather than dilute the overall business.”
Mergence Investment Managers’ head of equities, Peter Takaendesa, said he believed that MTN’s board handled the succession very well this time.
“Last time they had to call Phuthuma Nhleko back into an executive position and then had to go outside to find a chief executive when they hired Rob Shuter. That implies that succession planning had failed at that stage,” said Takaendesa.
He was referring to Nhleko, the former chairperson, who in 2016 returned as chief executive to lead negotiations with the Nigerian government following the record fine for unregistered SIM cards.
Takaendesa said Mupita had worked well with Shuter over the past few years as the group’s chief financial officer. He said the role had exposed him to the key complexities within the group.
MTN rose 1.41 percent on the JSE on Wednesday to close at R67.44.