MTN Group Names Mupita 48yrs Old CEO Amid Revamp at African Wireless Carrier

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By John Bowker and Roxanne Henderson

Mupita to take over seven months before Shuter’s contract ends

Shuter to join BT after spending four years in Johannesburg

MTN Group Ltd. appointed Chief Financial Officer Ralph Mupita as chief executive officer, sticking with an internal candidate to replace the departing Rob Shuter as head of Africa’s biggest wireless carrier.

Mupita, 48, will take over the role from Sept. 1, Johannesburg-based MTN said in a statement on Wednesday. Shuter will remain available until the end of his fixed-term contract early next year, when he leaves to join British operator BT Group Plc as head of the enterprise division.

MTN Group Ltd. CEO Rob Shuter Interview
Ralph MupitaPhotographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
A graduate of Harvard Business School, Mupita became MTN CFO in 2017 after nearly two decades at South African insurer Old Mutual Ltd. Alongside Shuter, he has helped lead a strategy that has seen the carrier dispose of assets such as telecom towers and concentrate on fewer markets, with a plan to pull out of the Middle East announced earlier this month. The company expects to dispose of its Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria businesses first, with others to follow in a phased manner.

Mupita is “very much a continuity candidate — seems to be a safe pair of hands and unlikely to make any major changes to strategic direction,” said John Davies, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “He’s a good communicator and has had time to get the telecom-specific experience while he has been CFO.”

MTN shares gained 3.3% to 68.66 rand as of 11:24 a.m in Johannesburg, trimming a decline for the year to 17%.

Then-Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko named Shuter, 53, for the top job in 2016, luring him from Vodafone Group Plc. When he took up the post the following year, a key task was to revive the carrier following a battle with authorities over undocumented subscribers in Nigeria, which resulted in a $1 billion fine.

However, MTN went on to have further clashes in the company’s biggest market, including over claims the firm illegally moved $8.1 billion out of the country and owed $2 billion in back taxes.

Both matters were eventually resolved in MTN’s favor, though the lengthy battles took a toll on the stock. The shares are down about 45% over Shuter’s 3 1/2 years as CEO.

An update on filling the group’s chief financial officer position will be made by the start of September, MTN said.

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