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UK’s BT appoints Telia boss Kirkby as new CEO

BT has appointed board member Allison Kirkby as its first female chief executive, to take over from Philip Jansen after he set a course for significant job cuts at the telecoms provider.

Kirkby will leave her job as chief executive of Swedish telecoms company Telia at the end of January 2024. She has been a non-executive director at BT since 2019.

She will take over at BT with a mandate to continue the path set by Jansen, who in May revealed plans to cut as many as 55,000 jobs across the company by 2030, citing the need for a leaner business as well as the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).

As a board member since 2019, Kirkby played a role in signing off that strategy. She said: “Having been a member of the BT group board for the past four years, I’m fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading it into its next phase of development, as we grow to support customers, shareholders and the UK economy.”

BT, which owns the EE mobile network and a large broadband internet network, announced it was looking for a successor to Jansen earlier this month. BT’s share price has nearly halved since he joined in February 2019. It closed on Friday at £1.24, valuing the company at £12bn, after a steady decline from nearly £5 a share in early 2016.

Kirkby started her career by qualifying as a chartered management accountant in 1990 while at the drinks company Guinness. She then spent 20 years at consumer goods company Procter & Gamble before entering the telecoms industry with Virgin Media. She led the Swedish telecoms company Tele2 and Danish telecoms company TDC between 2015 and 2020.

She will receive a salary of £1.1m, the same as Jansen’s, although her total pay package could be quadruple that under a bonus and share award scheme.

Her appointment will take the number of female FTSE 100 chief executives back to 10, after the departure of NatWest Group boss Alison Rose last week after she admitted discussing Nigel Farage’s personal banking situation with a journalist.

The other female chief executives in the FTSE 100 are: Margherita Della Valle, chief executive of Vodafone; Debra Crew at the world’s biggest spirits maker Diageo; Amanda Blanc at the insurer Aviva; Dame Emma Walmsley at the drugmaker GSK; Jette Nygaard-Andersen at the gambling firm Entain; Jennie Daly at the housebuilder Taylor Wimpey; Milena Mondini de Focatiis at the insurer Admiral, Louise Beardmore, at United Utilities, the UK’s largest listed water company; and Liv Garfield at former leader at BT’s Openreach subsidiary and chief executive at the water company Severn Trent.

Adam Crozier, the BT Group chair, said: “She is a proven leader, with deep sector experience and a history of having transformed businesses. I look forward to supporting her as we drive our long-term strategy to transform BT Group, ensuring it delivers for all our stakeholders.” The Guardian

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