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TalkTalk CEO Harding steps aside for public service role

TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding has stepped down, leaving the ISP in rude health

Dido Harding, CEO of internet service provider (ISP) TalkTalk has announced she is to leave the business in May 2017.

A seven-year veteran in the job, Harding will be replaced with consumer managing director Tristia Harrison.

At the same time, TalkTalk Business managing director Charles Bligh will take on the role of chief operating officer, and non-executive chairman Charles Dunstone will become a fully-fledged executive chairman, after stepping down from his current post as chairman at electronics retailer Dixons Carphone.

“After seven extraordinary and fulfilling years, during which we have transformed TalkTalk’s customer experience and laid the foundations for long-term growth, I’ve decided it’s time for me to start handing over the reins at TalkTalk and focus more on my activities in public service,” said Harding, who placed 17th on Computer Weekly’s 2016 list of the 50 most influential women in UK IT.

“Dido has been a tireless, energetic and effective force for good from the day she joined TalkTalk,” said Dunstone. “As a result of her leadership and total commitment to all of us who work here and our customers, she has helped transform TalkTalk into a much stronger business.”

Harding’s tenure was marred by a 2015 data breach that cost it over £40m to rectify, a £400,000 fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office, and lost it around 100,000 customers.

In a third quarter trading statement, TalkTalk’s headline financials showed that, fifteen months on, it had largely put the breach behind it.

The firm made group-wide sales of £435m, down 5.2% on the same period in 2016. This comprised on-net revenues of £332m, corporate revenues of £92m, and off-net revenues of £11m.

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On-net customer adds were down 42,000, driven by heightened churn in its legacy customer base that saw its tariffs re-priced, and lower new customer acquisition activity, which TalkTalk said was down to its decision to launch a new Ofcom-mandated integrated pricing structure ahead of other ISPs.

However, it noted a positive impact on broadband customers re-contracting, with 516,000, 13% of its base, renewing on its 18 month plan during the third quarter, and said 20% of those were upselling on products such as fibre-backed broadband, voice calling boosts and TV set top boxes.

On the business side, TalkTalk saw data revenues rise by 30%, helping to offset the normal declines in legacy voice. Corporate sales were up 3%, helped by ethernet and next-generation voice across both small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and large enterprise customers.

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