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Gent leaves Vodafone, boardroom power struggle rumoured

Former Vodafone chief executive Chris Gent has left the company amid rumours over boardroom splits at the world’s largest mobile operator.

There is said to be some boardroom opposition to the tenure of current chief executive Arun Sarin, as the company’s expansion strategy comes under question and the group’s sales start to falter.

Gent was credited with helping to make Vodafone the international company it is now after previously just operating in the UK.

But Gent has now left his position as Vodafone life president, while also denying he had been part of a power struggle.

Nevertheless, Sarin has overseen the removal of marketing head Peter Bamford, seen as close to Gent, and deputy chief executive Julian Horn-Smith is stepping down in July.

In addition, chairman Ian MacLaurin, who recently declared support for Sarin, is also leaving in July and being replaced by HSBC chairman John Bond.

Vodafone recently warned that its assets are overvalued by as much as £28bn and that it faces a slowdown in sales growth as a result of increased competition.

The company has also said future sales will be affected by national regulators forcing the company to reduce the charges it levies against other mobile and fixed operators for putting their callers through to its customers.

The European Commission is also determined to bring down international mobile roaming charges for customers, which the Commission and most customers feel are too high.

Vodafone is to take a hit of between £23bn and £28bn to address an assets over-valuation, mainly related to the assets it acquired with the £112bn takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann in 2000. This acquisition was overseen by Gent.

Vodafone recently said increased competition would see sales growth slow to between 5% and 6.5% in the year to March 2007. Previous forecasts for 2006 had been between 6% and 9%.

As a result, profit margins will slip in the next financial year, said Vodafone. The company said that this year's results would be unaffected by its latest business outlook.


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